Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania departments of Education, Health, Human Services and Insurance are reminding families to ensure their children's immunizations are up to date as part of back-to-school preparations. Immunization requirements also extend to students of cyber and charter schools.
Immunizations are a necessary precaution needed to protect infants, children, and teens from serious childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and chickenpox. Staying up to date with immunizations provides the best protection against disease and is essential to individual and population health.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans, including those bought through the federal Marketplace, as well as the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid, are required to cover school vaccinations as a free preventive service without charging a copayment or coinsurance.
"As students head back to school this year, parents no doubt have many decisions and concerns to consider during this difficult time," said Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. "Thankfully, the cost of school vaccinations isn't one of them, as most insurance plans cover required immunizations with no cost to the consumer."
These immunizations are covered regardless of whether or not the yearly deductible has been met. However, it is important to make sure that the doctor or provider who administers the immunization is within your health insurance plan's network, or you may be responsible for the cost.
Immunization-preventable diseases can be very dangerous, may require hospitalization, and can even result in death. A discussion with your doctor or your child's doctor can help determine which vaccines are needed.
"Immunizations are a safe and effective way to protect yourself and your children from a number of serious, life-threatening diseases," Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. "Getting your immunizations can help protect those around you, including people with compromised immune systems who cannot get inoculated. It is essential that everyone, especially children, are up-to-date on all recommended immunizations before heading back to school or within that first week."
In recent years, a change in state regulations altered the provisional period in which students could attend school without their vaccinations from eight months to five days. Children in grades K-12 need the following immunizations for attendance: tetanus, diphtheria, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), hepatitis B, and chickenpox. Children entering the seventh grade also need additional immunizations of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) and tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap). If a child does not have at least one dose of the above immunizations, he or she risks exclusion from school. Additionally, while the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory to attend school, the Wolf Administration encourages Pennsylvanians age 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure their safety during the 2021-2022 school year.
Health coverage is available for all children in Pennsylvania. No family makes too much money to purchase coverage through CHIP, and families or children may qualify for coverage through Medical Assistance. Immunizations and well-child visits necessary to help kids stay healthy are covered through both of these programs. If families have lost coverage due to a change in income or employment, CHIP and Medicaid can ensure parents can access affordable health coverage and care for their children.
"Medical Assistance and CHIP exist so that families and children don't have to go without health care coverage. This is always important, but especially during a pandemic," DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead said. "DHS administers these safety-net programs so that people are able to meet essential needs during difficult times. That support will continue to be here to help Pennsylvanians as we work to recover from this public health crisis and period of economic insecurity."
More information on CHIP can be found at www.chipcoverspakids.com. Families can apply for coverage through the CHIP program and determine their eligibility for Medical Assistance and other assistance programs that can help families online at www.compass.state.pa.us.
"Students and educators are preparing for the beginning of a new school year and opportunities to teach, learn, and grow together in classrooms across the commonwealth," said Secretary Dr. Noe Ortega. "As part of back to school preparations, I encourage families to ensure their children's immunizations are up to date."
Anyone looking to visit a local immunization clinic to receive vaccinations should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) to schedule an appointment. Pennsylvanians should have their vaccination records available when they call to make an appointment. A parent or legal guardian must accompany a child receiving immunizations.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NAIM), an observance coordinated annually to help highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.
Additional information on immunizations can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Health's website at health.pa.gov.
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