New Immunization Requirements

© 1997, 2000 Ellen Kramer
        In the article "Abortion and the Vaccine Controversy" (still the most requested article we have published), we reported that the cell strains of the chickenpox vaccine and the Rubella (Rubella Measles) portion of the MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella) vaccine come from aborted babies. Since Pennsylvania law required proof of one MMR (or a medical, religious or moral exemption) to be submitted with your affidavit, this became a homeschool issue.

        As we reported in 1996, the cell strain for the Rubella portion of the MMR was taken from an aborted baby in the 1960s. Two more-recently aborted babies were used for the chickenpox vaccine. Merck & Co. of West Point, Pennsylvania, developed and produces both vaccines. All organizations and medical journals reporting on this stated that because an otherwise healthy baby was desired for these cell strains, spontaneously aborted babies (miscarried babies) WERE NOT USED. Instead, surgically aborted babies were used.

        As an update, we understand that these serums are still the only serums available. We refer you to the prior article for any additional information. To our knowledge, the information included in that article is still accurate with the exception of the revised list of immunizations contained later in this article.

        This year the State Department of Health (DOH) implemented additional vaccine requirements. On its own and without legislative mandate, the DOH now is requiring the following changes for MMR and Tetanus/Diphtheria as stated in their Implementation Plan quoted below:

        The additional requirements include adding a second dose of Measles vaccine and a fourth dose of Diphtheria vaccine and Tetanus toxoid. All of these new requirements are for new school enterers at the Kindergarten grade, only (e.g. they do not affect students already in school, in any other grades), beginning with the 1997/98 school year. The second dose of Measles vaccine will be recommended to be given as MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) combined vaccine. The second dose measles requirement will be for new Kindergarten students, only [emphasis ours] until the beginning of the 2000/2001 school year (August/September 2000) when it will become an all grades (K-12) requirement. This will put Pennsylvania on track with a soon-to-be published ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] recommendation that all school students and college students be required to have two doses of measles-containing vaccine by the year 2001. In addition we would like to make it possible for school districts to computerize the immunization data they collect on all students rather than require these data to be maintained on Certificates of Immunization." [emphasis ours in all but the final italics]

        On March 29, 1996, Governor Ridge signed into law the Hepatitis B Prevention Act. This Act simply states, "The Secretary of Health shall cause hepatitis B to be placed on the list of diseases that require immunization for entry into school after August 1, 1997..." [emphasis ours]. According to the international organization still known as Vaccine Policy Institute (not an anti-vaccine group but an organization for informed consent located at 251 West Ridgeway Drive, Dayton, Oh 45459, (937) 435-4750), the cell strain for the newly required hepatitis B vaccine DID NOT come from an aborted baby. Instead, it was "gentically engineered and grown in a yeast culture." The only reported "controversies" surrounding the hepatitis B immunization we have found are that 1) it is largely a disease associated with promiscuity, intravenous drug users, and those who come in contact with their blood products and body fluids; 2) there is nothing known about whether or not additional boosters will prove to be necessary; and, 3) only 5 percent of the U.S. population is estimated by the CDC to become infected with the disease in their lifetime (according to Vaccine News Spring 1996). The State Department of Health (DOH) and several national groups believe that immunizing babies and young school children is necessary because 1) the ages of these risk groups is lowering; 2) once children get into school they are less likely to go to the doctor for regular checkups and vaccines; and, 3) virtually all children presumably could get involved in these activities.

        The "Pennsylvania Bulletin" Volume 27, Number 34 (available from your state senator or representative) published on Saturday, August 23, 1997, contained the following:

        "The category of children who attend school at home is specifically included in the scope of the regulation under the rubric "home education programs." The term "home education programs" appears in this rulemaking wherever required...The fourth dose of inactivated polio vaccine is required because of evidence that this vaccine, in the form administered before 1988, is less effective in achieving lasting protection against polio...[O]ne dose [of measles vaccine] is insufficient to provide continued immunity to 5 of every 100 vaccine recipients...It also requires an additional dose of both diphtheria and 3 tetanus toxoid, with one dose administered on or after the fourth birthday...The fiscal impact resulting from these amendments will be limited because most children who are entering school for the first time have already been appropriately immunized...If a child is vaccinated by a private physician it will cost about $150 for the three doses of hepatitis B vaccine and $50 for each dose of MMRII vaccine. The cost to the Department of these vaccines, if given in public clinics, is $23 for all three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, $16 for one dose of MMRII vaccine and $6 for one dose of DTP vaccine. Typically, 10-15% of the Commonwealth's children receive vaccines from public clinics...[S]ufficient Federal grant funds are available through the Department to underwrite the modest additional costs which will result from these amendments...Eventually, with computerization of immunization certificates, the paperwork requirement should decrease. Otherwise, no significant additional paperwork is contemplated... Certificate of immunization--The official form furnished by the Department. The certificate is filled out by the parents or health care provider and signed by the health care provider, public health official or school nurse or designee. The certificate is given to the school as proof of immunization. The school maintains the certificate as the official school immunization record or stores the details of the record in a computer data base."

        Under the subchapter on "School reporting," it states: "A public, private or parochial school shall report immunization data to the Department by October 15 of each year...Duplicate reports shall be submitted to the county health department if the school is situated in a county with a full time health department."

        Schools must report to the DOH: 1) the number of students enrolled in the school, 2) the number by grade level who were completely immunized, 3) the number by grade level who were classed as medical exemptions, 4) the number by grade level who were classed as religious exemptions, 5) the number who were provisionally admitted, 6) the number denied admission because of their inability to qualify for provisional admittance, 7) any other information required by the DOH.

        The DOH estimates that at least the following percentages of children "affected by the regulations" have or will have received the recommended doses of these vaccines upon entrance to school: 70%, hepatitis vaccine; 70%, MMRII; 90%, four doses of DTP.

        Regarding exemptions, the Rules and Regulations state: "(a) Medical exemption. Children need not be immunized if a physician or the physician's designee provides a written statement that immunization may be detrimental to the health of the child. When the physician determines that immunization is no longer detrimental to the health of the child, the child shall be immunized according to the subchapter. (b) Religious exemption. Children need not be immunized if the parent, guardian or emancipated child objects in writing to the immunization on religious belief." A medical exemption is accepted by the DOH if the child's physician prefers to delay administering the second dose till age 11 or 12, which is the age recommended by some medical profession organizations.

        Please note that the following is the three REVISED listings of required, required upon entry to school and recommended immunizations. We recommend that you note the difference from any prior listing for Pennsylvania residents as well as the difference among the three lists themselves. In 1997 homeschool parents need only show proof of (or exemptions from) the required immunizations when submitting that information with the affidavit and objectives to the public school superintendent. The DPaT is similar to the DPT except that fewer adverse reactions are reported from DPaT's Pertussis portion.

        Revised listing of REQUIRED immunizations as of 8/1/97: 3 Diphtheria;3 Tetanus; 3 Poliomyelitis, but a 4th dose of Poliomyelitis if any dose of inactivated vaccine was administered prior to 1988; 1 Measles (Rubella).

        Revised listing of REQUIRED UPON ENTRY TO SCHOOL (only affecting kindergarteners or first graders if skipping kindergarten) as of 8/1/97: 4 Diphtheria and 4 Tetanus with one dose of each administered after age 4; 3 Poliomyelitis; 2 Measles; 3 hepatitis B. For purposes of compliance with these new regulations, the DOH considers homeschooled children to be "in school." Since no paperwork is necessary for homeschooled students until age 8, the DOH indicated to us that homeschooled kindergarteners in the 97/98 school year will not be required to show proof of these additional vaccines until the student requires filing an affidavit at 8 years of age.

        The following summary is according to the State Department of Health (DOH) and due to the fact that homeschoolers do not have to submit an affidavit for kindergarteners.

  1. For the 1997-1998 school year, homeschoolers age 8 and older are required only to show documentation (or claim an exemption) to the required list above.

  2. However, beginning with the 97/98 school year and each year thereafter, students in kindergarten school year (or first graders if skipping kindergarten) will be required to show proof of the second MMR and the additional Tetanus/Diphtheria (or appropriate exemption) once they become 8 years of age and file with the superintendent. As of the school year 2000- 2001, all students through grade 12 will be included in the requirement to submit proof of (or an exemption for) the second dose of MMR and the fourth dose of Tetanus/Diphtheria.

  3. The hepatitis B series will only be required of every homeschooled kindergartener (or first grader if skipping kindergarten) this year and each subsequent year. Documentation or the exemption must accompany the child's affidavit when he/she eventually becomes 8 year old. At the present time it will not affect older students.

        All public school superintendents should be complying with this uniformly throughout the state. Specific questions regarding vaccine requirements may be directed to the Immunization Program, Bureau of Communicable Diseases, P.O. Box 90, Harrisburg, PA 17108 or call (717) 787-5681. The Vaccine News published by Vaccine Policy Institute costs $15 per year. Specifically addressing the hepatitis B vaccine are the Summer 1995 and Spring 1996 Issues which are $3 each. (Address above.)

        Decisions regarding immunization, like all other family and homeschool decisions, are very personal and complex. We pray that this information is helpful to you in making a more informed decision for your particular family and that your families' discernment regarding this matter will be respected by others. However, we request, in this matter and in any other parenting and educational decisions, that you will respect the difficult and sometimes different decisions which may be appropriate for another family. As Catholics we need to respect parental autonomy, authority and each couples' God-given graces to make the right choices for their own children. If every Catholic homeschool parent would make a determined decision not to critique or judge the decisions of other parents, just think of the domino effect it could have on our society, the government, the media, and social workers.

Back to Articles page.

Webmaster: Timothy Kramer -- E-mail:
© Copyright 2001 Ellen Kramer or Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted.
This page was updated on January 26, 2001.