Last year a New York suburb found itself in the midst of a measles outbreak, resulting in a ban of unvaccinated children from public spaces. While that ban was hard to enforce, New York has now taken a hard stance on vaccines, eliminating religious exemptions and banning anyone who is not vaccinated from attending school.
The new law "prohibits a school from permitting any child to be admitted to such school, or to attend such school, in excess of 14 days without sufficient evidence that the child has received all age-appropriate required vaccinations," and many people aren't happy about it. With the fourteen-day grace period now expired for most schools, parents are forced to either have their children vaccinated, opt to home school or move out of state.
According to the New York Times, there are almost 26,000 children who are medically exempt from vaccines on the basis of religion in NYC who are now facing the very real possibility of expulsion. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the bill into law in June commented at the time saying “I understand freedom of religion. We all do. We respect it. I’ve heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”
Despite measles being eradicated in North America in 2000, thanks to a large anti-vaxx movement multiple states, including New York and Washington State reached epidemic status last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has officially declared an end to the measles outbreak in New York City but medical professionals are warning that if vaccination rates don't continue to rise there's a good chance that the public could see another rise in cases.
“The threat remains, given other outbreaks in the U.S. and around the world,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner. “Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well-immunized city.”
Lorna R. Lewis, the superintendent of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District in Long Island told the NYT that unvaccinated children in school put all the children at risk. “We have 5,000 students in my district,” she said. “If there are 10 that have hard-standing vaccine adverse parents, I have 4,990 others whose safety I have to think about.”
Parents have already asked that their children not be placed in classes with unvaccinated children, Ms. Lewis said. “I think in a society you have to do what’s best for the good of all,” she added, “and I think that’s what this law does.”
Although there have been several lawsuits filed to block this current legislation, none have been successful at this time.