HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the start of a new school year just around the corner, the departments of Health and Education are launching the "Don't Wait. Vaccinate." campaign to remind parents and guardians of the importance of updating children's immunizations before they start class.
"Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's immunization schedule is one of the most important things that can be done to protect kids from serious diseases," said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. "When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for serious illness and can also spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems. If you haven't done so already, now is the perfect time to check with your child's health care provider to find out what vaccines your child needs."
"Preparing children to go back to school includes ensuring that they are properly vaccinated against serious illnesses, protecting them and their fellow classmates from getting sick," said Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera. "Immunizations play a critical role in maintaining the health and safety of all students so that schools can be a safe place for them to learn, interact, and grow."
Vaccines help protect children against 14 childhood diseases that can be very serious and even life-threatening. In Pennsylvania, all children are required to have certain vaccines before entering kindergarten, seventh grade, or when attending a commonwealth school for the first time. Children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance: diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, polio and varicella (chickenpox). Children entering the seventh grade also need additional immunizations of meningococcal conjugate (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap).
All of the vaccines listed above will be provided at vaccine clinics the Department of Health is holding across the commonwealth during the month of August. If a child doesn't have any insurance coverage or if insurance does not cover back-to-school immunizations, children who meet the requirements can get all of the vaccines listed above at one of the commonwealth's state health centers or local health departments. Immunizations are provided at little or no cost for children through 18 years of age who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, underinsured, 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 should have their vaccination records available when they call to make an appointment. A parent/legal guardian must accompany the child receiving immunizations. Department of Health staff will need to be notified prior to the appointment if someone other than the child's parent/legal guardian will be accompanying him/her. To help those who are unable to visit during regular working hours, evening and weekend hours will be available at certain locations.
In addition to these special back-to-school vaccine clinics, the Department of Health regularly schedules immunization clinics throughout the year across the commonwealth. Interested individuals can call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) any time to get more information.
This month is also National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), which reminds people of all ages to keep up-to-date on immunizations. NIAM's goal is to increase awareness about immunizations, from infants to the elderly.
"There is a misconception among many adults that vaccines are just for children," Dr. Murphy added. "The truth is, you never outgrow the need for immunizations. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill and can pass certain illnesses on to others. Immunizations provide protection that adults need – particularly older Pennsylvanians or those with certain chronic medical conditions – to help them stay as healthy as possible."
For more information, visit www.dontwaitvaccinate.pa.gov or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Yasmin Coleman or Penny Ickes, DOH, 717-787-1783
Nicole Reigelman, PDE, 717-783-9802
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health; Pennsylvania Department of Education