Pennsylvania Takes Reluctant Stand on Immunizations
When the school year began last September, large numbers of Pennsylvania school children lacked immunizations or the proof that they had received those immunizations. The Pennsylvania Department of Health notified families that they would have eight months to obtain immunizations, file the correct paperwork or provide the paperwork giving their student an exemption for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. The deadline passed and was extended for two weeks. Yesterday was it.
It was up to the district superintendents to ban students or not ban students for lack of immunizations. Some schools are permitting unvaccinated students to attend classes while others have refused and banned them from the building. The push to obtain immunizations and correct records has been successful in other districts.
The Pocono Record reports that some local schools have full compliance with the immunization policy. Two local schools were banning some students. The East Stroudsburg Area School District has reduced its backlog from 650 student to 70, and they were going to be banned. Pocono Mountain had gone from 300 to 50 by Tuesday’s deadline, and these students were set to be banned.
Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West are taking the opposite tack. The Times-Leader reports that Wilkes-Barre has about 300 students without all their immunizations. They are being allowed to finish the school year but will not be permitted to attend in the fall if the situation has not been corrected. WNEP-16 reports the same policy at Western Wayne, with the number of non-compliant students in that district at 67.
In Erie, 350 students were not allowed in class on Tuesday. By day’s end the number had been reduced to 206, as reported by GoErie.com.
In the Scranton area, the Times-Tribune surveyed local school districts. Many had full compliance while others reported very low numbers of students that would be banned. The Scranton district had about 300 students needing immunizations at the lend of last week and 155 students were banned on Tuesday.
Pennsylvania is one of twenty states that permit parents to exempt their children from immunizations based on a philosophical belief. The statute describes it as “a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief”. The state has reported nearly 500 cases of pertussis, whooping cough, in 2012 and ranks fifth nationally in the number of reported cases.
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