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Districts try to get all students immunized by deadline

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Back to school for Pennsylvania students means time is running out to get them vaccinated. New state rules require students to be up to date on all vaccines by the fifth day of school.

“Huge change,” said Elizabeth Groff, the nurse at East Pennsboro Middle School.

In the past, Groff had eight months to make sure all students were up to speed on vaccinations.

“When the regulations came out, that was the ‘holy moly’ moment for us because we rolled out the information for our next school year on the system, and we got these reports that were hundreds long,” she said.

School district officials found out about the new regulations in April.

“At the beginning of August, when we came back for in-service days, we still had about 300,” Groff said of the students needing vaccinations. “On Monday, I still had five.”

Those kids had to stay home.

Districts across the state have similar numbers. Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland Valley, and Big Spring school districts all have less than a handful of students sitting at home. That’s out of thousands district-wide. Like East Penn, some had hundreds of students out of compliance through the summer.

West Shore had more than 1,000 students to stay on top of.

“We had about 1,700 to 1,800 students that weren’t going to be compliant and able to start the school year,” Cedar Cliff nurse Teresa Stoner said.

West Shore’s five-day grace period ends Wednesday.

“Now, we’re down to probably 50 district-wide,” Stoner said.

It sounds like a lot, comparatively, but not when you consider the size of the West Shore School District and where that number started.

“It was a lot of extra work,” Stoner said. “It was a lot of phone calls, a lot of paperwork, checking databases for immunizations.”

East Penn is now a beacon of hope. A day after their deadline, every student is properly vaccinated.

“Properly immunized against diseases that are making a comeback,” Groff said.

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