AllentownSchool District

Allentown School District to Launch Vaccines for Children Partnership with PA Department of Health

Allentown School District to Launch Vaccines for Children Partnership with PA Department of Health
Posted on 05/04/2022

ALLENTOWN, PA — The Allentown School District (ASD) is excited to announce a new partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

VFC is a federally funded program that provides free vaccines to children aged 0-18 who are underinsured or have no health insurance. Allentown will become only the second district in Pennsylvania to launch the program.

Achieving immunization compliance is a longstanding challenge within ASD. Each year, more than 1,000 students in the district are out of compliance with at least one required vaccination, putting them at risk for exclusion from school as outlined by state law. 

Through the VFC program, ASD will now have vaccine storage units at Allen High School, Dieruff High School and Central Elementary School. The district anticipates ordering its first shipment of vaccines for those health rooms before the end of the school year. It also plans to expand the initiative to South Mountain and Harrison Morton middle schools in the fall. 

“We are pleased to offer routine vaccines that are required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for attendance in school, along with other recommended vaccines,” said Dr. John Stanford, ASD Superintendent. “The Allentown School District and Student Services Department would like to thank the Allentown Health Bureau for their continued partnership, support and guidance in implementing this initiative through the PA Department of Health.”

The VFC program uses evidence-based best practices to reduce immunization disparities. The initiative recognizes the barriers faced by Allentown families to obtain immunizations and changes the current practice of ASD school nurses from referring students to outside providers to administering vaccinations in school health rooms. 

“We want our families to understand that if they do not comply with school-required vaccines may result in their student’s exclusion from school, said Crystal Perez, ASD’s Assistant Director of Health Services. “To protect student health, promote student academic success and preserve community relationships, we must ensure vaccine compliance to make sure our students don’t miss important in-person instructional time.”

Eligible families who have students in need of state-required immunizations have already received information on the VFC program. School nurses will provide families with a letter that explains the process, a consent form and vaccine information statements about shots that need to be administered. If a student attends school in another building, the district will arrange a time to bring the student to one of the sites, or a nurse will visit the student’s school with the needed vaccine.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania maintains that all students must be 100 percent compliant with all required vaccinations within five days of the start of a new school year. Exclusion from school may lead to decreased academic performance as students miss valuable classroom instruction time. It can also strain relationships between school staff and families. Additionally, routine immunizations protect children from a number of infectious diseases and have significantly reduced childhood mortality rates. 

ASD encourages families to take the important step in keeping children safe from disease by ensuring they are up to date with routine immunizations annually. Families with questions about their child's immunization records can contact their primary care provider or school nurse.