By tightening its rules for admissions of unvaccinated children, Pennsylvania significantly reduced the number of youngsters entering school halls without being fully immunized from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

This information, reported by Harrisburg correspondent John Finnerty, comes as the nation deals with an outbreak of measles that has hit as close as Meadville and Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania allows schools to refuse admission for a child who has not gotten immunized against a battery of conditions, including: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), hepatitis B. and varicella (chickenpox).

A child who has gotten a portion of the vaccines but not all may be admitted on a provisional basis but must get the remaining immunizations.

The state does allow parents to refuse having their children immunized by claiming a medical, religious or philosophical exemption, as Finnerty reported.

After Pennsylvania changed its requirement, the number of youngsters who had not been fully vaccinated who were entering the state’s kindergarten classrooms dropped from 9,793 to 2,641 in a year, Department of Health data show.

When the exemptions are factored in, 1 in 10 Pennsylvania kindergarten pupils were not fully vaccinated in 2016-17, then just 1 in 20 last year. 

That’s certainly a positive trend.

Some lawmakers are pushing for even tighter restrictions. 

State Sen. Daylin Leach, a Delaware County Democrat, has proposed legislation that would eliminate the option for those who don’t believe immunizations work, or could be harmful to their children – the so-called philosophical exemption.

State Sen. Judy Schwank, a Berks County Democrat, has authored a bill that would create a standard exemption request form, and would require parents to meet with a doctor before deciding against having a child vaccinated.

Supporters of tighter immunization guidelines note that many doctors will not accept as new patients individuals who have not been inoculated.

We think having your child vaccinated – for his or her safety, and for the safety of others – is a sensible decision and we support the state’s efforts to make schools safer.

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