Assemblywoman Walker: We can’t Afford to Wait; Vaccinations Prevent Public Health Crises, Save Lives

Assemblywoman Walker (D-55) announced that she helped pass a bill that would better protect our communities from dangerous diseases by repealing all nonmedical exemptions from vaccination requirements (A.2371-A).

“We can’t just sit back and do nothing as the alarming measles outbreak continues to put New Yorkers at risk,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “And while every person has the right to exercise their own religious freedoms, a line must be drawn when this puts New Yorkers’ lives in danger. I’m committed to protecting our kids and those whose health is already at risk. Vaccinations protect public health, plain and simple.”

The current measles outbreak in the United States is the worst in decades, and New York State accounts for the majority of cases. There have been 588 confirmed measles cases in New York City since September and 266 cases in Rockland County. Other areas that have been impacted include Greene, Orange, Suffolk, Sullivan and Westchester counties. According to the New York State Department of Health, measles can cause severe complications and lead to hospitalization and death, and the best way to prevent this highly contagious disease is by getting two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The disease is especially life-threatening for those who cannot be vaccinated such as infants and the elderly.

Existing New York State law requires all children attending school receive immunizations for poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, rubella, tetanus, hepatitis B and varicella; however, a child can be exempt when a physician certifies that it could be detrimental to their health, or for certain nonmedical reasons. This legislation would change this law by ending all nonmedical exemptions from vaccination requirements for children.

Assemblywoman Walker noted that misinformation and reckless rhetoric regarding vaccinations have spread at an alarming rate causing the religious exemption to be widely misused, which has led to concerns that herd immunity could be compromised. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sustaining a 95% vaccination rate among schoolchildren is the best way to maintain herd immunity and prevent the spread of communicable diseases in our schools.

Under this measure, children without a certificate or other form of acceptable evidence of receiving the required immunizations will not be allowed to be admitted to a school or continue attending for more than 14 days. The legislation would allow certain unvaccinated children to receive an extended grace period of 30 days if they are transferring from out of state or from another country and can show they are trying to get the certification, or they have received at least the first dose of each required immunization series and have age-appropriate appointments scheduled to complete the immunization process.

Assemblywoman Walker further noted that although we’re facing a measles outbreak right now, it could be another highly contagious, dangerous disease next if we don’t quickly take action and require vaccinations to protect our communities.

“Scientific research has shown time and again that vaccines work to protect us from potentially deadly preventable diseases,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “Ensuring that those who can be vaccinated are protects those who cannot be, including infants and New Yorkers with immune disorders.”