Following a deadly measles outbreak, New York enacted a law that removed religious exemptions to vaccination. Now, 26,000 students face expulsion if they don't get vaccinated.
New York City experienced its worst measles outbreak since it was first certified eradicated in October 2018, only worsening as the year progressed. In light of the outbreak, the state announced a new law that would ban students from attending classes if they did not get vaccinated, The New York Times reports. This means that parents of about 26,000 children in the state, who were previously exempted from vaccines due to religious reasons, are facing a moment of reckoning. Now that the new legislation has been implemented, all students must begin receiving their vaccines within the first two weeks of classes and complete them by the end of the school year. Should their parents choose to allow them to remain unvaccinated, they must either home school their children or move them out of state.
It was only earlier this week that the measles outbreak was officially declared as concluded in its epicenter. On Tuesday, October 8, Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that the outbreak had come to an end in New York City, where 654 measles cases were reported. Across other parts of the state, 414 cases were declared. According to The New York Times, the majority of cases that were reported involved unvaccinated children from Hasidic Jewish communities. In these communities, immunization rates were generally lower, with some areas experiencing far lower than the state average of 96 percent.
In light of these details, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, affirmed, "The threat remains, given other outbreaks in the United States and around the world. Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well-immunized city." Hence, the new law was passed on June 13, making New York one of only five states in the country to exterminate all nonmedical exemptions to vaccination. Now, the state has one of the strictest vaccination policies in the entire nation which some do not believe is a good thing. Jacquelynn Vance-Pauls, a real-estate lawyer in upstate New York who has a 14-year-old son with autism, for example, believes the policy encroaches on her rights to choose for her children.
She has resisted complying with the new law as she believes vaccinations caused her son's autism (a myth that has been scientifically debunked multiple times in numerous studies). Now, she is confronted with the legal compulsion to vaccinate her other children, nine-year-old twins. Previously, she received religious exemptions so as to not vaccinate them. Vance-Pauls asked during an interview in an attempt to explain her fears, "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? How do we turn our backs against what we have believed all these years because we have a gun to our heads?"
Unfortunately, due to her irresponsibility, her children currently face expulsion. As a response to anti-vaxx parents, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state health commissioner, guaranteed parents that vaccinations are safe. He affirmed in a public statement, "I assure you, vaccines are safe and effective. I'm a father. My kids are vaccinated." Hopefully, the new law addresses the vaccination hesitancy that has, for too long now, plagued developed countries such as the United States. Officials predict that it will prevent further outbreaks of preventable diseases eradicated decades ago.