PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — From the youngest to the oldest students in our schools, there are very specific vaccination rules.

The rules are developed by the Centers for Disease Control as a way to keep illnesses from spreading through our schools. This year there are some major changes.

The Pennsylvania Health Department’s April Hutcheson says the grace period is virtually gone.

“There was a window of eight months from the time school started to when your child’s vaccines had to be up to date. That window has been shortened to five days,” she said.

Parents are getting letters from schools outlining the changes and making it clear that if your child is not in compliance by the end of the fifth day of school, they could be told to go home, or stay home.

But Hutcheson says, “As long as you have a plan in place from your doctor, and the doctor signs that plan that says my child is due for the vaccines, say in January, that will suffice for the beginning of the school year.”

Schools do not want to prohibit a child from coming to school and will take extensive steps to notify parents prior to excluding a child from class.

The new rules also up the doses required for Tetanus, Diphtheria and Acellular Pertussis (Tdap), from three to four. Likewise, the polio vaccine dosage is also upped from three to four.

Hutcheson says, “Most kids are already getting these things as part of their normal schedule.”

The vaccine requirements don’t stop after elementary school. Tdap and MCV boosters are required before entering seventh grade, and another MCV booster is required prior to the 12th grade, or after a child’s 16th birthday.

Fully aware that some parents object to having their child vaccinated, Hutcheson says, “That exemption that was there before is still there.”

The waiver is on the back of the immunization card and has to be filled out and signed.

The state and school districts are getting the word out now so parents will have the next four months to get a doctor’s appointment and the vaccines underway before the August rush, right before school starts.

For a detailed explanation of the vaccination rules, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website here.

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