Religious exemptions for vaccinations for private and public schools across New York state are no longer, and children cannot attend school without the proper vaccinations after state lawmakers passed the new legislation in June and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law on June 13.
It prohibits private and public schools from permitting any child to be admitted to school, or to attend school, more than 14 days without sufficient evidence that the child has received all age appropriate required vaccinations. The type of vaccines and number of doses required vary by age.
Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said that families with unvaccinated students have been alerted of the new law. “We keep records as a part of registration and affected families were sent registered letters last month,” Pedersen said in an email. “They are getting follow up letters now that the 14-day charity has been added.”
Even before the legislation was passed, the Nassau County Department of Health was encouraging people to get vaccinated. Health Department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain said that the county has and will keep urging children to get vaccinated by working with the school nurses to make sure there is no barrier for children to not be vaccinated. “We also work with the Nassau University Medical Center to have children receive vaccinations there if needed,” Laurain said.
She added that there is a low percentage of unvaccinated students within the county. “As a county, we are fortunate to have a 98 percent vaccination rate for children who attend public schools and a 97 percent rate for children in private schools,” Laurain said, adding that percentages for religious exemptions are also low in the county, with a 0.66 percent among public school children and a 1.84 percentage for children in private school.
County Executive Laura Curran tweeted on Aug. 15 the importance of vaccinations. “I urge parents to have their child receive a physical and their vaccinations before school starts,” Curran tweeted. “The single best way to protect our children and the entire community from serious diseases is through recommended vaccinations.”
In July, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the state to challenge the law. Six parents of children with disabilities filed the lawsuit against Cuomo and other state officials that claimed the children were being denied access to federally protected educational services for students with disabilities due to the new law. Federal Judge Allyne Ross dismissed the case on Aug. 19. Five days later, State Supreme Court Justice Demise Hartman also upheld the state law.
Hewlett-Woodmere spokeswoman Barbara Giese released a statement on how the district will handle the new law. “Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools has informed parents that the recently passed law has ended religious exemptions to immunizations,” Giese stated. “We will adhere to the law requiring that all students receive the mandatory vaccinations.”
Information on the required vaccines can be found at https://on.ny.gov/2zoxpfS.