Health Department Officials Hope to Update Vaccination Record System –

WILKES-BARRE — The system that’s supposed to track vaccinations among Pennsylvania’s school kids isn’t doing its job. That’s what Newswatch 16 found after looking through immunization records.

Newswatch 16 dug through thousands of vaccination records from the Pennsylvania Department of Health from last school year. Of the state’s 1.7 million students, schools reported on the vaccinations of only about 280,000 kids.

“Having a group of children that we don’t know to be unvaccinated puts that group of children at risk of exposure to diseases that can be really dangerous or deadly,” said Dr. Richard Huntington, a family doctor for Geisinger Health.

State health officials argue the data they turned over to Newswatch 16 doesn’t actually account for all vaccines given to students. That’s because state health officials admit there is a flaw in the way it collects data.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that we have very, very low immunization rates overall in the state. It’s just that when we took that snapshot, not everybody was up to date,” said Dr. Loren Robinson of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Dr. Robinson says students are supposed to get vaccinated before school starts. But the state gives students an eight-month grace period to get more kids vaccinated.

She hopes lawmakers eliminate the grace period.

“Just so that we can make sure that we’re not putting other students at risk where someone may or may not be immunized,” she said.

The state health officials hope the problem is fixed for next school year.