New York Vaccine Proposal Could Change School Procedure

The new requirement some parents would need to meet regarding their children’s immunizations.

The recent case of measles in the Hudson Valley brought the ongoing national vaccination debate to the region’s collective consciousness, and now New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who represents Queens, has taken action. This week, he introduced a bill that would require parents of unvaccinated public school kids to get documentation that shows a physician has notified them of the risks of not being vaccinated.

Gianaris’s bill, which is sponsored in the New York State Assembly by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Queens), would require parents to submit an affidavit signed by a physician to their child’s school as proof of their knowledge of the risks involved in opting out of the normal vaccination requirements.

New York State law requires that children be vaccinated against specific diseases in order to attend public school. Currently, exemptions are based solely on “genuine and sincere” religious beliefs and limited medical reasons. This proposal does not change those exemptions; its purpose is to increase awareness regarding the risks of neglecting the recommended regimen of vaccines.

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“The idea is that education will help overcome the anecdotal gossip that is threatening the health of kids around the country now,” Gianaris said to the New York Daily News. “We need to do whatever we can so parents realize the importance of vaccinations.”

Although 91% of the United States population is vaccinated against the measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nine out of 10 people who haven’t been vaccinated could become infected when around an infected individual. The CDC recently released a report stressing that when more people seek and obtain vaccination exemptions (or simply were never vaccinated for other reasons), it not only increases the individual’s risk of falling ill, it can also endanger community-wide health. In New York State, 72.2% of all children aged 19 to 35 months have received their full series of CDC-recommended vaccinations.

Though Gianaris called vaccination opposition a “dangerous trend” and said the notion that “any risk to them has been debunked by credible science and medical data,” he added, “in the end, it’s still a parent’s choice.”

Gianaris’ proposal is part of a trend in state legislatures to strengthen vaccination policies. California is looking to crack down especially hard on those who opt out of vaccinations; their state legislature is considering ways to remove the “personal beliefs” exemption.

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