Students entering kindergarten can no longer wait until age 7 before parents demonstrate a completed series of vaccinations against highly contagious childhood infections, state health officials said Thursday.
The new rules, which require full doses of specific vaccines, kick in Tuesday. In the past, children were allowed to enroll in kindergarten having only partially completed required vaccine schedules.
But New York health authorities amended state law in the wake of a fast-moving measles outbreak that began late last year at Disneyland in Southern California. That outbreak affected 147 people in this country, spreading to six other states, Mexico and Canada.
"These revisions are based on the most current science and will give our children the best protection we can provide from devastating diseases," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Thursday, adding that New York is aligned with federal childhood vaccine standards.
The new rules in New York arrived as health authorities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday called on states to push counties and school districts to post vaccination rates at individual schools.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, who directs the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news briefing it's important "to recognize when vulnerabilities exist in communities."
"Most parents believe that vaccinating their children is the right thing to do," she said.
Last month, Assemb. Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) introduced legislation to abolish religious exemptions, the only type of school-entry exemption from immunization allowed in New York. California eliminated religious and philosophical exemptions in June. Medical exemptions are the only type that remains there.
In New York the new school-entry rules include:
Students entering kindergarten through the seventh grade for the 2015-16 academic year need two doses of measles and mumps vaccines and at least one rubella. Previously, children who entered school for the first time could wait until age 7 before receiving the second dose of measles and mumps vaccines.
Students in kindergarten through seventh grade also need five doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccines. A caveat: If the child received a fourth dose after turning 4, only four doses are required.
Students entering kindergarten and grades one, six and seven need four doses of polio vaccine. However, if the child received a third dose after turning 4, just three doses are required. The seventh- and first-grade requirements are new.
Children who have not received all required vaccine doses must make appointments with their health care providers to complete the vaccine series to remain in school, health officials said Thursday.