HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — There’s been lots of talk about COVID-19 vaccines and monkeypox shots lately, but Pennsylvania leaders are reminding parents to make sure their children’s regular immunizations are up-to-date before school begins, too.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as chicken pox, meningitis, measles, whooping cough, and others are still seen across the commonwealth. Keeping children up to date on vaccinations is the best way to keep them healthy and reduce unnecessary absences from school,” says a press release from the Pennsylvania departments of Education, Health, Human Services, and Insurance.

Most insurance plans are required to cover school vaccinations as a free preventive service without charging a copayment or coinsurance, the release explains. The shots should be covered whether or not the yearly deductible has been met, it notes, although parents should make sure that the doctor or provider who administers the shot is within their plan’s network.

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“Getting vaccinated and staying up to date is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to prevent disease,” said Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson in the release. “Vaccines help protect everyone, including people with compromised immune systems who cannot get vaccinated. It is essential that everyone, especially children, are up-to-date on all recommended immunizations before heading back to school.” 

Children in kindergarten through 12th grade need the following immunizations to attend school, the release notes:

  • Tetanus, diphtheria
  • Polio
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Chickenpox

Additionally, the release explains that students entering seventh grade need:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV)
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap)

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Children who do not have at least one dose of those immunizations and do not have a medical or religious/philosophical exemption risk exclusion from school. The provisional period in which students can attend school without their vaccinations is five days, the release notes.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory for students to attend school, officials encourage children ages 5 and older to get the shot.

More information on recommended and required immunizations for kids can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website.