In two weeks, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will start forcing local school districts to send any students home who are not up to date on their vaccines.
The new regulations could affect thousands of students statewide and keep hundreds from classes in Lackawanna County alone.
Those students without up to date immunizations could have been sent home Monday, but at the last minute, the state department of health decided to give students and school districts an extra two weeks to comply.
In Scranton alone, almost 800 students could be barred from class in two weeks.
Scranton School District Superintendent Bill King ordered another round of automated phone calls to go out to almost 800 households, telling parents they have two more weeks to comply with new state guidelines for immunizations.
“I’m actually thrilled they gave us an extra two weeks, because that will give us a chance to reduce that number,” King said.
School officials said there are about 800 students who don’t have the required immunizations. Most attend the district’s high schools.
Scranton has, by far, the highest number of students in Lackawanna County affected by the new state law that could keep them from class in two weeks.
The state department of health has added new required vaccines for students. Now, all students K-12 need a chicken pox vaccine and students in grades 7-12 need the tetanus and pertussis vaccine, or “TDAP”, and a immunization for meningitis.
“Finals are coming up, we just finished PSSA testing, the last thing we want to do is deny any one the ability to come to school, but the other thing we won’t do is violate the law,” added King.
He said the school district has been sending letters and making phone calls to parents since the beginning of the school year, and starting May 7 they will send students without their shots home for the day.
Something many parents we spoke to agree with.
“For some it’s for religious reasons or other things, but most of them should be, for the safety of the students and even the teachers,” said Ann Bonna of Scranton.
“In the short term it will really hurt the students, but in the long run it will help them. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have vaccines, and if the parents can’t pay for it the state will,” added Michael Ledford of Scranton.
There are some clinics in Scranton that offer these immunizations for free.
You can find information about the vaccine regulations here: http://www.portal.health.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/immunizations/14141.