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Immunization Awareness Month boosters back to school

Story by Master Sgt. Chris Botzum

111th Attack Wing

by 1st Lt. Samuel Alexis, 111th ATKW Medical Group public health office

Backpacks full of pencils and books, a set of snappy-new sneakers or a drawer full of back to school clothes may not be all your children will need this year as we lean into the quickly approaching reading, writing and arithmetic state of mind of back to school. It may include a booster.

Not by chance, August is Immunization Awareness Month which happens to usher in new vaccination requirements by the Pennsylvania Department of Health for children starting this year.

Previously, a child could be admitted to school without having the required immunizations for 8 months before facing potential expulsion from school. The new guidance requires that a child needs to be up to date with their vaccinations or have a medical certificate, signed from their health care provider, within the first-five days of school or face expulsion. If the vaccine is a multi-dose vaccine such as Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) or Varicella, the regulations require that the child have at least one dose of the vaccine upon school entry or risk exclusion.

In addition to the decreased immunization timeframe, the revised regulations have included a booster dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) by 12th grade. If a booster shot was received after the age of 16 or older then that will be considered the 12th grade dose. School administrators or their designees are required to review that medical plan/certificate every 30 days to ensure that the child is in compliance.

If needed, exemptions to vaccinations can be obtained from a licensed health care professional and designated Health Department personnel for medical reasons, religious beliefs or an ethical conviction. Temporary waivers for the child can also be obtained if the child is homeless or the child is unable to locate their records due to a disaster. For more information on exemptions and waivers or general immunization requirements please contact your local Department of Health.

The revised regulations were published March 2017 in order to give preparation time for schools, school nurses, parents and the medical community. The regulation went into effect on August 1st, 2017. As we go into the coming school year it is up to us all to stay vigilant against those who aim to do us harm whether they be foreign, domestic or microbial.

Keeping health and fit to fight is not just for those of us in ABUs or blues, but also for those swinging a snazzy-new superhero lunch box, wearing plaid jumpers or sporting ponytails as September approaches.

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