It’s now the law: Students must be vaccinated

By Annemarie LePard

The deadline to begin “excluding students” from attending school if they have not received their mandatory vaccinations has passed, Nassau County Commissioner of Health Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said at the Nassau County Board of Health meeting on Sept. 17 in Mineola.

That Tuesday marked the 14th, and final, day that children were allowed to remain in school or day care without receiving their first age-appropriate dose in each immunization series, according to a recently passed state law.

 New York state law now requires that all students, in public, private and parochial schools, to be vaccinated. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The new law also requires that within 30 days after the first day of school or day care, parents or guardians of non-vaccinated children must provide evidence that they have appointments scheduled for all the required follow-up doses.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the new law on June 13 to help protect the public after the state was recently hit by the worst measles outbreak in more than 25 years. Public, private and parochial schools, as well as day care centers, are expected to enforce the law.

“This law is for the parents, or guardians, who are purposefully avoiding vaccinations,” Eisenstein said. “The Board of Health is here to work with families who cannot get vaccines because of a lack of access or financial concerns.”

Eisenstein added that the Board of Health does not want children to be the “victims of their parents’, or guardians’, misunderstandings of vaccines.”

According to Eisenstein, the Board of Health is looking out for the community’s health and safety, noting that new law no longer grants families exemptions from vaccinations for religious reasons.

“The public is agitated with anti-vaxxers,” Eisenstein said.

Measles, a disease that had been eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, has now returned to the states, carried here by non-vaccinated travelers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Aug. 31, there were no reported cases of measles following an outbreak that affected over 1,000 people in 30 states from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1. Eighty percent of the overall cases in the U.S were reported in New York state.

On Sept. 4, the Nassau County Board of Health was notified of a laboratory confirmed case of measles in an adult who had recently arrived in the U.S. from outside the county on an international flight from JFK International Airport. The adult was exposed to measles in an ongoing outbreak in another country. The traveler, in turn, exposed 46 residents in Nassau, according to Eisenstein.

The exposed residents were under “active monitoring,” according to Mary Ellen Goebel, administrative officer of the Nassau County Department of Health.

A second case of measles was confirmed on Sept. 19 and involved a Nassau County resident. Goebel would not release the number of exposures correlated to this incident; however, she did confirm that both patients were hospitalized and are no longer considered “a risk to the public.”

The Board of Health is requiring vaccinations to protect children with weak immune systems and babies, a year and under, who are too young to be vaccinated. “Who is looking out for them if we don’t?” Eisenstein said.

The new law on school vaccination requirements is “very black and white,” Dr. Anthony Battista, vice chairman of Nassau County’s Board of Health, said.

Students who are excluded from attending school or any school-related events that expose them to a large population of the community, such as the SAT, are required to receive their schooling from home. Children who are homeschooled are not required by law to be vaccinated.

The Nassau County Board of Health addressed other topics, including Cuomo’s recent ban on all flavored vape products in New York state, the testing of mosquitoes for West Nile virus and water regulations governing contaminants.

The board’s next regular meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Nassau County Department of Health in Mineola.