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Pa. Department of Health tells parents: ‘Don’t wait, vaccinate’ in statewide campaign

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - As parents start to think about back-to-school preparations for their kids, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is asking that you add vaccinations to your to-do list.

The department is now telling parents: "Don't wait, vaccinate." That's  the name of their campaign that's urging parents to update their child's vaccines before school starts.

Health officials say the program is needed because of the state's current regulations. Pennsylvania is one of two states that has an 8 month provisional period that allows kids to enter school before receiving vaccinations.

"We feel that this 8-month period provides unnecessary risks to both children and the school and families," Department of Health Secretary, Dr. Karen Murphy said.

Autism and Vaccinations

According to officials, Pennsylvania has among the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Experts say many parents are worried that vaccines may cause Autism Spectrum Disorder, but Dr. Murphy says that's not the case.

"There's no credible scientific evidence that would lead us to believe that vaccines cause autism," Murphy said. "Vaccines have proven to be safe, and risks are far greater than for them not to be immunized."

According to a study by the CDC, researchers found that vaccines do not cause ASD. The study looked at the number of antigens  from vaccines during the first two years of life. Antigens are the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies.The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.

Health officials say childhood immunizations protect children from up to 14 communicable diseases.

Children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance: tetanus, diphtheria, polio, MMR (measles, mumps,rubella), hepatitis B, and chickenpox. Kids entering the seventh grade also need more immunizations of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap).

Statewide Vaccination Clinics

As part of the DOH's campaign, the department is hosting over 61 clinics statewide between now and August 21.

For a full listing of the back-to-school clinics, click here.

The clinics will give immunizations at little or no cost for children through 18 years of age who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, under-insured, or American Indian or Alaska Native. The cost is $5 per child (payable by check or money order) for families above income guidelines, however no child will be turned away because of an inability to pay.
Parents whose children meet the requirements for the vaccine clinics must call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) to schedule an appointment. Parents must bring their child’s vaccination records to their scheduled appointment. A parent/legal guardian must go with the child receiving immunizations. DOH staff will need to be notified before the appointment if someone other than the child’s parent/legal guardian will be accompanying him/her.
In addition to these special back-to-school vaccine clinics, the Department of Health regularly schedules immunization clinics
throughout the year across the commonwealth.