In June this year, the state of New York passed the law that ended all religious exemptions for vaccinations for public school children. The law was passed after it was found that nearly 26,000 families claim religious exemptions and nearly 1,000 students broke out with measles in 2018.
“Denying students the right to an education over something that until they are 18 they cannot control is wrong,” said Julia Neuvirth (’21). “Denying education period takes us back decades to the days where it was not a fundamental right in our country.”
New York is the most recent state to end religious exemptions for vaccinations; they joined Maine, California, Mississippi and West Virginia.
“We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Senator Brad Hoylman in an interview with NPR. The atrocious peddlers of junk science and fraudulent medicine have spent years sowing unwarranted doubt and fear, but it is time for legislators to confront them head-on.”
Now that the law is passed, the only exemptions to vaccines will have to be medically related. “People who have cancer or are actively receiving treatment for cancer, young infants under 6 months, those with low immune systems or people with HIV/Aids,” said Renee Kern, FNP.
Even though a large amount of medical exemptions did come about in other states after similar laws passed, all in all, many students did infact receive their required vaccinations. In order for students who were previously unvaccinated to attend public school this year, parents will have to provide proof of the first dose of vaccines within 14 days of the start of the school year and show proof of follow up appointments within 30 days of the start of the year.
“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in an interview with NPR.
“While I respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health.”
When large numbers of people are unvaccinated, herd immunity to illness is damaged. “Herd immunity is very important and occurs when the majority is vaccinated,” said Renee Kern, FNP. “It will protect people who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons or age. Having this herd immunity will make it harder for bacteria to spread and can help prevent the outbreak of disease and illness.”
Many education majors on campus have varying opinions on how they should feel about the change in New York. “It’s a conflicting topic,” said Neuvirth. “While I think the idea of making vaccinations mandatory is a good thing for the safety of the students and teachers, I do not think it should be carried out this way. However, I also do not think it is right to make someone do something that is against their religion.”
From a teachers point of view, this is both a positive and a negative. “As an educator, my most important job is to put the safety of my students above all else,” said Zach Everly (’21). “It is truly unsafe to have children who have not been protected against such awful diseases in a classroom. A school is like a petri-dish of germs. Children (and adults) shouldn’t have to worry about diseases that have been nearly eradicated in our country.”
“I think while it is important to have students up to date with their vaccinations to protect herd immunity and to protect those who cannot receive their vaccines, then overall class sizes in those regions will shrink,” said Hannah Flemming (’21). “If it is truly against someone’s religion to vaccinate, they will pull students from the public school system before getting them vaccinated.”