Smithtown, like Rocky Point and Miller Place last week, said in...

Smithtown, like Rocky Point and Miller Place last week, said in a statement Tuesday that it is awaiting findings from state Department of Health investigation into whether Wild Child falsified childhood vaccination records. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Smithtown Central School District said it will not enforce a policy requiring additional proof of vaccination for children with immunization records from a pediatric practice convicted of vaccine-card fraud until the state obtains more information from an investigation it is conducting into the practice.

The Suffolk and Nassau county health departments have recommended that districts require parents obtain immunization records for their children from a health care provider other than Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville. But amid threats of legal action and challenges by parents, it’s unclear how many districts, if any, are currently following the recommendations, which potentially affect thousands of Long Island children.

The county health departments said they do not know which districts are following their recommendations.

Smithtown, like Rocky Point and Miller Place last week, said in a statement Tuesday it is awaiting findings from a New York State Department of Health investigation into whether Wild Child falsified childhood vaccination records before deciding whether to bar students who have not obtained further proof of state-mandated vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Smithtown school district will suspend a policy requiring further proof of vaccination for children with records from a pediatric practice convicted of vaccine-card fraud pending a state investigation into the practice.

  • Smithtown is one of several districts that have backed down from enforcing such a policy, which was recommended by the Suffolk and Nassau health departments because of a concern about the accuracy of records for immunizations against measles, mumps and other diseases.

  • The parent company of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, and its owner, Julie DeVuono, were convicted of two felonies related to the falsification of COVID-19 records. DeVuono’s attorney said DeVuono sold thousands of COVID-19 cards but did not falsify childhood immunization records.

“The school district has deferred all decisions regarding the exclusion of students pending further investigation by New York State,” Smithtown Superintendent Mark Secaur said.

The state Health Department would not comment on the probe, because it is the subject of an open investigation, spokeswoman Danielle DeSouza said Tuesday.

Wild Child’s parent company and its owner, nurse practitioner Julie DeVuono, were convicted of two felonies in connection with falsely stating that patients were vaccinated against COVID-19. She agreed to close the practice and surrender her nursing licenses.

An attorney for DeVuono, Jason Russo, said she sold thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards but never falsified non-COVID vaccination records. Wild Child provided childhood vaccines to between 500 and 1,000 kids a year, Russo said.

Attorney Chad LaVeglia, who represents parents from Smithtown schools, said districts have no right to force parents to obtain blood tests for their children when there is no evidence Wild Child falsified childhood vaccination records.

“Neither the Department of Health nor the school district is in the position of questioning the validity of the cards,” he said.

Asked about evidence that Wild Child falsified children’s vaccination cards, the county health departments referred to the state investigation. DeSouza declined to comment on evidence and what spurred the investigation.

The counties' health departments in October recommended that districts require the additional vaccination records, from a blood test showing antibodies created by vaccines or, in the case of vaccines not easily detected by tests, immunizations from a provider other than Wild Child.

Attorney James Mermigis, who also represents parents of children who were patients at Wild Child, said two other districts, Eastport-South Manor and Island Park, also backed down from a previous policy following health department recommendations.

Island Park declined to comment. Eastport-South Manor released a statement Thursday that said the district “will continue to follow the requirements and guidance from the New York State and Suffolk County Departments of Health,” but declined to clarify what that meant.

In November, Eastport-South Manor sent letters to parents of 10 children in three schools stating that the district “is not permitted to accept immunization records from Julie DeVuono or Wild Child” and giving deadlines for them to obtain new proofs of vaccination.

“Failure to do so will result in the district being legally obligated to exclude your child from school,” the letters, obtained under a Freedom of Information Law request, stated.

All of the deadlines have passed.

The district Tuesday did not respond to requests for comment, including why it characterized the Suffolk health department’s advisory as a mandate, rather than a recommendation.

With Jim Baumbach

Latest videos