When parents prepare to enroll their children in day care or preschool programs in Pennsylvania, they must follow state requirements for medical records and vaccinations against contagious diseases such as diphtheria, smallpox, chicken pox, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. State health regulations require day care centers to follow state health law and to ensure that all enrolled students are properly vaccinated before entering a school or day care. These laws are designed to protect public health and prevent spread of disease.
The state of Pennsylvania requires the following vaccines for children before they enter school or daycare: diphtheria, tetanus, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B, polio and chicken pox. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, ''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.'' Parents may also legally avoid immunizations if they can prove opposition on religious, moral or ethical grounds.
Pennsylvania's Vaccine for Children program provides vaccinations to children who do not have health insurance. This program is helpful to parents who need to enroll their children in day care but cannot afford the vaccinations. Federal funding is also available to help parents vaccinate their children. Whether a child is in day care or school, vaccine requirements are the same. The Pennsylvania Department of Health also recommends that day care and school children receive the influenza and Hepatitis B vaccines.
In 1991, the Commonwealth began to require a list of vaccines for day care children in response to a measles outbreak. Previously, day cares did not follow the same requirements as schools. The new requirement covered commercial day care centers, Head Start programs, nursery schools and child care services based in private homes. Pennsylvania bases its immunization requirements on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
State health centers and occasional shot clinics across Pennsylvania provide free or affordable vaccinations to children, including those attending day care. Although some families are permitted to object to vaccinations and sign a waiver, some recent outbreaks of whooping cough and tuberculosis have caused concern about children and elderly people catching the diseases. Before enrolling children in day care, parents should inquire whether other students have had vaccines and should confirm that all state requirements are being followed.