New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in the month of June eliminating religious exemptions from vaccinations for schoolchildren that will force some families across New York to keep their children at home.
According to a report from the New York State Health Foundation, Cortland County had around 62 students out of 5,782 who were exempted from vaccinations based on religious beliefs in 2018.
Overall, more than 1,500 students in Central New York who had religious exemptions for vaccinations in previous years will be banned from school at the beginning of the fall semester unless they get vaccinated.
“While I understand and respect freedom of religion, said Gov. Cuomo. “Our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
The U.S. has been facing the worst measles outbreak in decades. The disease is extremely contagious and caused by a virus that is spread through the air, according to the CDC.
More than 1,000 cases were reported in New York state this year.
“There are guidelines within the law, that students out of compliance will be excluded from school,” said Pam Griffith, supervising public health nurse at the Cortland County Health Administration. "A valid medical exemption, however, is still acceptable according to the new law."
The new law prohibits schools from permitting any child to attend classes in excess of 14 days without sufficient evidence that the child received all age appropriate vaccinations.
The law includes any public, private or parochial child caring center, day nursery, day care agency, nursery school, kindergarten, elementary, intermediate or secondary schools. That includes all five school districts in Cortland County, along with the Tompkins Cortland Community College Child Daycare Center and the Lime Hollow Preschool Nature Program.
"We currently have a few students that are impacted by this new law,” said Marathon School District Superintendent Rebecca Stone. “We are working with the families that have to make changes individually.”
“Letters have been sent to families who are impacted,” added Stone. “It is their choice if they get the immunizations or not. If they do not get the immunizations, they understand that they will have to un-enroll their children.”