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August 05, 2021

Nearly 20,000 Philly students are behind on state vaccinations, could face bans from school

State mandates require students to be vaccinated against communicable diseases like chickenpox and tetanus

Education Immunization
School Immunizations CDC/Unsplash

The School District of Philadelphia said 19,000 of its students are behind on their required vaccinations and they must get their shots before the start of the school year.

The School District of Philadelphia is promoting two vaccination clinics for routine immunizations as thousands of its students have fallen behind on their state-mandated shots.

The district said more than 19,000 students don't have all of their routine vaccinations, like measles, mumps and rubella, which are required by the state for children to attend public school.

The district is not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible students, but Superintendent William Hite said any students who do not receive the required shots in time for the school year will not be allowed on campus.

Online students who attend the district-run Philadelphia Virtual Academy are also required to get their immunizations, Hite said.

"Any student who is noncompliant with the state-mandated immunizations by Aug. 31, which coincides with our first day of school, will be excluded from school," Hite said.

This means unvaccinated students will not be allowed to enter school buildings and will rack up unexcused absences until their immunization records are updated. Any student that has 10 absences or more is declared a truant.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to put off routine health appointments, check-ups and vaccinations, causing millions of children around the world to be behind on their shots, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that vaccination rates plummeted between March and May of 2020. While rates increased from June to September 2020, it was not enough to achieve catch up coverage.

The district is hosting free immunization appointments for students through the month of August, including those that are undocumented and uninsured, at two health clinics in the area through a partnership with Delaware Valley Community Health:

Maria de Los Santos Health Center

401 W. Allegheny Ave.
Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25
8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fairmount Primary Care Center

1412 Fairmount Ave. 
Aug. 10, 17, and 24
8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"All of the vaccines that you’re due for, in addition to the COVID vaccine, can be given together. And we recommend that," said Dr. Julia DeJoseph, chief medical officer of Delaware Valley Community Health.

The district said the first 200 students who register and receive their immunizations will receive a $25 American Express gift card at their appointment.

The district said 12% of incomplete vaccinations are students who are learning English or whose parents are learning English. 

"Reducing barriers and promoting access to free and safe childhood vaccines is the most important thing pediatric healthcare providers can do to promote health and wellness in our children," DeJoseph said.

These immunizations are required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the state Department of Health for children to attend school. Students are required to show proof of vaccination by Aug. 31, unless they completed the exemption from immunization form.

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