Pennsylvania’s top health official stresses need for vaccinations
Pennsylvania’s health secretary emphasized the importance of vaccination in the wake of a national measles outbreak.
“Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect yourself from a number of serious, life-threatening diseases,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. “Getting your vaccinations can help protect those around you, such as those with compromised immune systems who cannot get vaccinated.”
She addressed the issue Thursday during an immunization conference in Harrisburg attended by health professionals.
Levine said vaccination is essential for all Pennsylvanians — not just school-aged children — and staying up-to-date on recommended immunizations is the best defense against disease.
State law requires school children receive the following vaccines: Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; Polio; Measles, mumps and rubella; Hepatitis B and chickenpox.
Immunization data for this school year is not yet available. In the 2018-2019 school year, however, 83.4% students across Pennsylvania received all the required immunizations, state data shows.
The health department in 2017 changed the grace period from eight months to five days for students to get vaccinated, to be more protective of the public health.
Recommended vaccines for adults include flu, pneumonia, shingles and whooping cough, as well as others based on age, lifestyle and travel destinations.
Nearly 1,100 measles cases were reported in the U.S. through June 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the greatest number of cases since the disease was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.
Twenty-eight states, including Pennsylvania, have reported cases this year. The first confirmed case in Pennsylvania was in Pittsburgh in April.
To date, Pennsylvania had eight measles cases; seven in Allegheny County and one in Crawford. All were related to international travel.
Measles is, primarily, a childhood infection that can be fatal.
The Health department offers immunization clinics across the state for children and adults who do not have insurance that covers shots. To schedule an appointment, call 1-877- 724-3258.
Thursday’s conference brought together physicians, health care providers and others to discuss issues and recommend strategies to improve immunization rates in Pennsylvania.
For more information on vaccinations required to attend schools in Pennsylvania, click here.
Nicole C. Brambila is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Nicole at 724-226-7704, [email protected] or via Twitter .