School nurses rise to challenge of new immunization laws

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School nurses rise to challenge of new immunization laws

Voice: November 2017

State officials say the implementation of Pennsylvania’s new student immunization regulations this year generally went smoothly.

A lot of credit goes to those who were in the trenches – school nurses.

“School nurses immediately went to work as soon as the new regulations were announced last spring, and they spent countless hours making sure parents and guardians were aware of the updates their children needed,’’ said Alice Uhrich, president of the PSEA School Nurse Section. “One of the reasons for the smooth start statewide was the hard work and commitment of our school nurses. We continue to work diligently to follow up every 30 days on students with immunization medical plans.’’

The law required students to have all mandated vaccines on the first day of school, or risk being turned away. A major change is that school districts are only allowed to grant a five-day exemption period, as opposed to eight months under previous regulations.

“As soon as we heard this last March, we immediately went to work checking student records and notifying families,’’ said Louise Snyder, a nurse in the Conrad Weiser School District, Berks County.

“There were also a lot of contacts that had to be made with doctors’ offices. It was a tedious process.’’

As was the case in most school districts, Snyder said nurses worked through the summer and right up to the start of school to get information to administrators.

Kathy Bagian, a nurse in the Northern York School District, York County, said another key change that added to the challenge was the increase in the number of polio vaccines from three to four as of Aug. 1.

“We really had to stay on top of that,’’ Bagian said. “It was difficult but I feel proud of all of the nurses. Yes, it was hectic, but we got it done.’’