September proved to be a busy month in the state of New York. Legislation passed in June of this year is now in effect and prohibits unvaccinated children from attending any school. Yes, that includes private schools, religious academies, and even daycare where children gather, they must be immunized.
The law allows parents a 14-day window from the start of the school year to prove their children have received an age-appropriate dose of immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Effectively repealing religious and medical exemptions keeping thousands of students from forced vaccinations, New York joined California, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia on the same mission – stop the spread of dangerous diseases.
On the heels of the worst outbreak of measles in recent history, with 83% of cases disproportionally found in the Hasidic Jewish communities in New York City, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law and doubled down on backing science over personal and religious freedoms:
“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis.”
Parents were given a healthy timeframe to have their children vaccinated before the start of the fall school semester; however, some 26,000 school-aged children – who previously claimed medical or religious exemptions – might be in limbo and remain isolated at home.
And of course, anti-vaxxers are suing.
Junk Science or Legit?
One New York mother, who has been on the front lines of the anti-vaccine crusade, believes her now teenage son is experiencing Autism because of his infant immunizations. Jacquelynn Vance-Pauls, a real-estate lawyer in upstate New York, has not complied with the new law, and her children are perilously close to being expelled from school.
Vance-Pauls has argued both the religious exemption – claiming the Bible has banned her family from vaccines as it is “desecration of the body” – and medically because of her child’s Autism diagnosis.
“If you have a child who you gave peanut butter to and he almost died, why would you give it to your next child. How do we turn our backs against what we have believed all these years because we have a gun to our heads?”
Despite study after study finding vaccines are not only safe but protect children from a variety of debilitating and often fatal diseases, some parents and religious leaders feel persecuted and without options. Perhaps they are right. But this law is intended for the good of the order and that is what it is, so far, accomplishing. Superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District, Lorna R., puts it rather bluntly: “We have 5,000 students in my district. If there are 10 that have hard-standing vaccine adverse parents, I have 4,990 others whose safety I have to think about.”
And the schools are on notice as well: Any institution found deciding whether a student should or should not be exempt faces a fine of up to $2,000 per violation.
It basically comes down to vaccinate, home school, or move out. There is no gray area in New York.