Vaccine Requirements Overrule Religious Rights

The State of New York passed a law on June 13 that eliminates religious and other non-medical exemptions from vaccinations for children attending all schools and daycares.

Prior to this law, children were allowed to be exempt from required vaccines for religious and medical reasons. However, after June 13, all students in New York must receive the vaccines required to attend daycare or school, unless they have a valid medical exemption.

According to the New York State Department of Health (DOH), “this includes all public, private and religious schools. Children with nonmedical exemptions must now be vaccinated to attend or remain in school.” New Paltz Central School District, therefore, must update their vaccine requirements in order to comply with this new law.

This law is in response to increasing outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough that is typically seen in school-aged children.

“The United States is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles in more than 25 years, with outbreaks in pockets of New York primarily driving the crisis,” the New York State DOH said in its original statement of the new law that was released on June 14. “As a result of non-medical vaccination exemptions, many communities across New York have unacceptably low rates of vaccination, and those unvaccinated children can often attend school where they may spread the disease to other unvaccinated students, some of whom cannot receive vaccines due to medical conditions. This new law will help protect the public amid this ongoing outbreak.”

Students in summer daycare, school or camp programs were required to get their age-appropriate vaccines before attending such programs, while students starting the normal school year in September must have the first dose of their age-appropriate vaccines within the first 14 days of the school year or daycare program. Within the first 30 days, students must have proof of a follow-up appointment for the rest of the doses for their vaccines. 

Parents upset about this new law spoke at the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education meeting on Aug. 21, voicing their concerns over the changes in vaccine requirements for their children.

“This is enacted on a state level. It comes from the DOH and Board of Regents. Schools are required to comply,” said Kathy Preston, president of the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education, in response to these parents. “There’s frustration, there’s fear, there’s sadness, there’s a lot of things going into it. There’s nothing the district can do about it. It’s become state education law.”

Many parents who choose not to vaccinate are upset over this new law, while other parents are happy to see these exemptions gone.

“The ideological exemptions to vaccine mandates are like ideological exemptions to using child car seats in vehicles,” said Ryan Megan, a science outreach activist in New Paltz. “It’s insane and dangerous. With car seats you’re only putting one child at danger, vaccine avoidance puts us all at risk.”

Some of the vaccines that are required for students include the Hepatitis B vaccine, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine and the Polio vaccine. The complete list can be found on the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov/prevention/immunization/schools/school_vaccines/.