Immunizations have been a hot topic of discussion for many years, but the intensity of the discussion magnified during the pandemic.

The immunization requirements to attend public school in Pennsylvania were updated as recently as the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Additional recommendations for protecting children from disease are also listed, but they are not required to attend public school from kindergarten through college.

Birth through preschool

Dr. Sam Bang, Family Medicine of Evangelical-Northumberland, said, “There is a huge chunk of vaccine that we give before elementary school. It is what I call the birth to toddler. The first shot we give is Hepatitis B.”

According to the CDC website, this first inoculation is given at birth. The second dose is given in the first to second month of the child’s life. The third dose is given at 6-18 months.

These are the other childhood immunizations that will be required to enter public school in Pennsylvania.

Birth to 18 months

  • TDaP
    • : This series of inoculations is a three-in-one dose that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Doses are given at 2, 4, 6 months and 15 months.
  • Inactivated poliovirus:
    • babies/toddlers receive three doses which are usually scheduled at 2 months, 4 months and 6-18 months.
  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
    • : The first inoculation, according to the CDC website, should be given between 12 and 15 months of age, but not before the child’s first birthday.
  • Varicella (chicken pox)
    • : The first dose is given between 12 and 15 months.

    Children ages 2-4Bang notes there is a break from inoculations in this age bracket if the routine schedule is being followed.

    Children ages 4-6

  • TDaP
    • : The fourth dose of this protection is given in this age range.
  • Poliovirus
    • : The fourth dose is given between 4 and 6 years.
  • MMR:
    • children receive the second dose of MMR.
  • Varicella
    • : The second dose is given in this age range.

    Ages 11-12

  • DPaT
    • : The fifth dose of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis is due for these 11-12 year olds.
  • Poliovirus
    • : The fourth inoculation of poliovirus is given to this age group.
  • Meningococcal serogroup A (meningitis A)
    • : The first of two injections is given at this age. The second dose is give when teens are 16 years-old.
    • The human papiliomavirus inoculation (HPV)is recommended at this age, but it is not required in


    Dr. Stacey Cummings, pediatrician at Geisinger notes the immunizations required to attend public school have not changed since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. She also clarified “that inoculations for flu and COVID-19 are recommended, but not required.”

    Elementary-level exemptions

    According to the Pennsylvania code, “children need not be immunized if a physician or the physician’s designee provides a written statement that immunization may be detrimental to the health of the child. When the physician determines that immunization is no longer detrimental to the health of the child, the child shall be immunized.”

    There is also a religious exemption.

    “Children need not be immunized,” the code says, “if the parent, guardian or emancipated child objects in writing to the immunization on religious grounds or on the basis of a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief.”

    At our local universities

    Amanda O’Rourke, Susquehanna University public relations manager, said “to protect the health of its students, Susquehanna University requires the following immunizations, all of which, she noted, are required as students progress through public school in Pennsylvania: Hepatitis B, MMR, Meningitis A, Polio, TDAP, and Varicella.

    Susquehanna also requires the COVID-19 vaccine and SU recommends immunizations for HPV and Hepatitis A.

    “Additionally,’ said O’Rourke, “we require the Meningitis B vaccine for students with specific immunodeficiencies. For all other students this is recommended.”

    At Bucknell University, according to Michael Ferlazzo, director of Media Relations, in addition to the standard state requirements to attend public school, the university requires students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to stay up to date with all CDC-recommended boosters. This requirement applies to all students who have not received an exemption, including the Class of 2026 and incoming transfer students.

    Exemptions will be available only in limited cases of a verified medical contraindication for the COVID-19 vaccine or of a religious belief or practice that conflicts with the COVID-19 immunization requirement. In both cases, students must apply for an exemption. General philosophical or moral objections to the COVID-19 vaccine do not qualify for an exemption.

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