PDH Says PA Vaccine Providers are Ready to Vaccinate Children Ages Six Months and Older (June 19, 2022)

On June 18, 2022, following the approval of two vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the PA Department of Health (PDH) says vaccine providers across the state are prepared to begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations for children six months and older beginning early next week.

The federal agencies have approved the use of a three-dose Pfizer vaccine for children under five years old and a two-dose Moderna vaccine for children under six years old. Both vaccines are approved for children as young as six months.

“The approval of the vaccines for young children across the state and the nation is welcome news for many parents who have been waiting for the opportunity to provide valuable protection for their children from COVID-19,” Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “Parents can begin scheduling appointments early next week with many vaccine providers, including pediatricians and primary care physicians, who will have the vaccine available for administration as early as Tuesday (June 21).”

The department notes that pharmacists across the state are only allowed to provide COVID-19 vaccines to children ages three and older, so parents seeking appointments for children under three should contact their pediatrician, family doctor or other qualified physicians.

Pfizer’s vaccine requires three doses and is available for children under five and as young as six months. The vaccine uses three micrograms per shot, which is one-tenth of what is used in the Pfizer shot for adults. Children receiving the Pfizer series of shots, should receive the second dose three weeks after the first, and the third shot eight weeks after the second shot.

Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses and is available for children ages six months through five years. The second shot should be administered 28 days after the first dose. Moderna’s vaccine for children under six calls for 25 micrograms per shot, which is one-quarter of the dose given to adults.

“It is critical for parents to make sure their children receive the complete series of shots for the vaccine to be as effective as possible,” Johnson added. “The CDC says for the vaccine to reach its efficacy, children need to receive the recommended three doses of the Pfizer vaccine and two doses of the Moderna vaccine.”

To view the PDH press release, click here.

CDC Recommends COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Children (June 19, 2022)

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) newsroom release, on June 18, 2022 CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This expands eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children and means that all Americans ages 6 months and older are now eligible for vaccination. 

Parents and caregivers can now get their children 6 months through 5 years of age vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines to better protect them from COVID-19. According to the CDC, all children, including children who have already had COVID-19, should get vaccinated.

The CDC also reports that COVID-19 vaccines have undergone—and will continue to undergo—the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Parents and caregivers can play an active role in monitoring the safety of these vaccines by signing their children up for v-safe – personalized and confidential health check-ins via text messages and web surveys where they can easily share with CDC how a child feels after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Distribution of pediatric vaccinations for these younger children has started across the country, and will be available at thousands of pediatric practices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, clinics, and other locations the week of June 19th. Children in this younger age group can be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available (either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech). Parents can reach out to their doctor, nurse, local pharmacy, or health department, or visit vaccines.gov to see where vaccines for children are available.     

The following is attributable to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky:    
“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against COVID-19. We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can. I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated.”    

To view the CDC press release, click here.

USDE Creates National Parents and Families Engagement Council to Help Ensure Recovery Efforts Meet Students’ Needs (June 15, 2022)

On June 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) launched the National Parents and Families Engagement Council (Council) to facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families and caregivers. Families’ voices play a critical role in how the nation’s children are recovering from the pandemic.

“Parents are a child’s first teachers, and there’s no one better equipped to work with schools and educators to identify what students need to recover,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The National Parents and Families Engagement Council will serve as an important link between families and caregivers, education advocates and their school communities. The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future.”

The Council consists of parent, family, or caregiver representatives from national organizations that will work with the USDE to identify constructive ways to help families engage at the local level. Organization representatives will reflect the diversity of the education system, including, but not limited to, families of students in public schools, charters, private schools, and homeschool. The Council will be a channel for parents and families to constructively participate in their children’s education by helping them understand the rights they have, create a feedback loop with schools to shape how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds are deployed to meet students’ needs, and identify summer learning and enrichment opportunities for children in their communities.

“Parents provide critical perspective, and they should always have a seat at the table whenever decisions are made that impact their children. And this is more important than ever in the effort to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Anna King, president of National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). “National PTA applauds the Department of Education for launching the National Parents and Families Engagement Council and providing a channel for parents’ voices to be heard and considered. This is essential to help make sure the needs of students are met coming out of the pandemic and ensure every child has everything they need to make their potential a reality.”

“NAFSCE congratulates the Department of Education for establishing a National Parents and Families Engagement Council,” said Vito Borrello, executive director of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE). “This Council provides the opportunity to bring diverse parent voices together to inform the USDE’s policies and programs, while also serving as a dissemination vehicle for engaging families across the country in equitable education policy.”
At launch, Council members include:

  • The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)
  • Fathers Incorporated
  • Generations United
  • Girls Inc.
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • Mocha Moms
  • National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE)
  • National Action Network
  • National Military Family Association (NMFA)
  • National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  • National Parents Union (NPU)
  • The National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (PLACE)
  • United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN)
  • UnidosUS

In the coming weeks, the Council will meet to discuss how their children are recovering; the different ways schools are providing academic, mental health and social and emotional support; and how they can best constructively engage with schools. In the coming months, the USDE and the Council will hold local listening sessions with parents, families, principals, educators, and school community members to better understand the needs of students as they start the 2022-23 school year.

DHS Provides Innovation and Best Practices in Supporting Adults with Autism (June 14, 2022)

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches Journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities to live an everyday life. This edition focuses on innovation and best practices in supporting adults with autism.

“DHS is committed to making a future that truly includes individuals with autism as fully integrated members of our communities. We work every day to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have what they need so they can live everyday lives, and I hope that the research and articles in this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal will be useful to anyone working to achieve that goal,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead.

Articles in this issue highlight issues facing adults with autism, and this edition features research and articles on the following:

  • Data Discoveries: This addition to the issue details the data-driven Life on the Spectrum workshop series, led by self-advocates with autism.
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation for Autistic Adults: Pilot Program Development: This article details the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) Western Behavioral Health Psychiatric Rehabilitation (PR) program used to serve autistic adults and outlines the successes and opportunities of the program.
  • Autistic and Transgender: Support at the Intersection: This article addresses the needs of autistic and transgender individuals through evidence-based intervention, clinical experience, and lived experience and details the support needs of this community.
  • A Reflection on Retirement from Someone on the Autism Spectrum: A Commonwealth employee of 29 years recounts his experience working for DHS and details his transition to retirement.
  • Enhancements of Identification and Service Delivery to Individuals with Neurodevelopmental Needs within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC): This article outlines the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC’s) Psychology Office’s updates to identifying and treating neurodevelopmental disorders beyond intellectual disabilities, including those individuals living with autism spectrum disorder.
  • What Comes Next? Creating Programs and Understanding Priorities for Autistic Adults as They Age: This article details how Pennsylvania’s Office of Developmental Programs is a national leader in models and services for Pennsylvanians with autism.
  • Reliability of the Temple University Community Participation Measure with Adults with Autism: This article examines a tool developed by Temple University that measures the community participation of adults on the autism spectrum.

The journal is a collaboration of DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and collects resources, observations, and advancements in mental and behavioral health in order to better serve people in their communities.

Click to read this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal.

PDE Announces Survey to be Sent to Parents of Students with Disabilities (June 13, 2022)

On June 13, 2022, PDE Bureau of Special Education Director Carole L. Clancy disseminated a PennLink message titled Survey of Parents of Students with Disabilities. That message stated that Pennsylvania’s State Performance Plan requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) include collecting and reporting data on the involvement of families in special education programs. Specifically, states must report annually to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the public on State Performance Plan Indicator 8 which is the: “percent of parents with a child receiving special education services who report that schools facilitated parent involvement as a means of improving services and results for children with disabilities.”

Like many other states, Pennsylvania is collecting this data through a large-scale survey. Pennsylvania reports results of the survey to OSEP in its State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report. This report is posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) websites. Reporting on local educational agency (LEA) performance is done through the Special Education Data Reports on the PennData website.

To ensure that parents from every LEA in the commonwealth are included in the survey, PDE developed a sampling plan that was approved by OSEP. Under this sampling, each year PDE collects data from a representative sample of parents in approximately one-fifth of the LEAs. The LEAs in this year’s sample are listed in the PennLink message. Parents receiving the survey were selected from PennData using a stratified random sample of school age students in each LEA. Surveys will be mailed directly to the parents from Leader Services in the next few weeks.

The survey being used was developed by the National Center for Special Education Accountability Monitoring under a grant awarded to that center by OSEP. The survey can be viewed at Leader Services-Parent Survey. Additional information about the survey can be found on the PaTTAN website at PA Indicator 8 Information.

A letter that accompanies the survey assures parents that their responses will be confidential. Parents may direct questions about the survey to the Special Education Consult Line at 800-879-2301. Should parents contact LEA personnel about the survey, PDE asks that staff encourage them to participate in the survey process.

Questions regarding this PENN*LINK may be addressed to Barbara Mozina, Special Education Adviser, at bmozina@pa.gov.