Pennsylvania Schools Increasing Vaccine Mandates: Consider Public Action
In August 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued new school vaccination requirements that require require tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines to be administered prior to enrollment. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH), “On the first day of school, a child must have had at least one dose of all of the above vaccinations or risk exclusion.” If a child does not have all of the required doses, they must complete the vaccine series in the first five days of school or have a doctor provide a medical plan for obtaining the required immunizations.
Pennsylvania does retain a policy for exemption from the requirements due to a medical reason, religious belief or a philosophical, moral or ethical conviction. There have been reports of some public schools not informing parents of the exemption options, refusing valid exemptions or asking parents to provide more information than the state law requires. According to law, parents, guardians and emancipated children may sign a letter stating their objection to vaccines—no additional information is required.
The Pennsylvania Coalition for Informed Consent has provided links to the law and sample letters at informedconsentpa.org/resources/pa-school-regulations-toolkit. The PDH has an official form that can be used to document a child’s immunizations and/or declare one of the exemptions at Tinyurl.com/PA-Immunization-Form.
In the past 10 years, there have been more than 20,000 cases of hospitalization, disability, death or life-threatening illness reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS); this number does not include numerous mild reactions or those that were not reported. The U.S. Federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has awarded more than $3.7 billion to families of the vaccine-injured since 1988, even considering that two-thirds of plaintiffs are denied their claims for financial reimbursement of vaccine-related illness, debilitation or death.
Employees and students, especially in healthcare fields, are required to get vaccines to keep their jobs or continue going to school. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have proposed legislature that could eliminate religious, philosophical, moral or ethical exemptions. Pennsylvanians can contact their state representative and state senator, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack and Governor Tom Wolf to ask them to support maintaining philosophical exemptions to vaccinations as they exist now in Pennsylvania law and to oppose any effort to repeal or restrict non-medical exemptions.
Citizens can ask legislators for their help to require that schools clearly inform parents of all legal options regarding vaccine exemptions and to pass legislation to limit the extent that the regulatory process can be used in vaccine mandates for students or employees so that Pennsylvanians should be able to refuse vaccines without penalty or discrimination. To join the conversation, visit legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator.
Leia Anderson holds a doctorate of naturopathic medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She is a member of the team of naturopathic doctors at Natural Paths to Wellness, located at 3601 Gettysburg Rd., in Camp Hill. For more information, call 717-494-4500 or email Admin@NaturalPathsToWellness.com.