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Seven questions about NY's immunization rules

Bottles of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on

Bottles of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on a counter at the Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake City on April 26. Credit: Getty Images/George Frey

New York law on required immunizations for children to attend schools, be in child-care settings and at summer camp changed in June after the State Legislature passed a bill removing the ability to claim religious exemption from vaccinations. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure into law on June 13 and it took effect immediately.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions, based on information from the state Department of Health, state Education Department and state Office of Children and Family Services.

How did the law change?

There no longer is a religious exemption from the requirement that children be vaccinated against measles, mumps and other diseases specified by the state Health Department for students in prekindergarten through 12th grade to attend public, private or parochial school and for children in day care settings or summer camps.

To whom and where do immunization requirements apply?

The law covers children in public, private and parochial schools and in child-care settings. For summer camps, counties and individual camps have the authority to require vaccination.

Who can be exempted? 

The only basis upon which a child may be exempted from immunization requirements is if a licensed New York State physician certifies that there is a medical reason why the child should not be immunized. Any immunization exemptions previously granted based upon statements of religious belief no longer are accepted, and no new exemptions of that nature will be considered or granted. 

What time frames apply?

In terms of when classes start for the 2019-20 school year, children can attend school as long as they have received the first age-appropriate dose in each immunization series no more than 14 days after the first day of school. In addition, these children must show within 30 days after the first day of school that they have appointments scheduled for all required follow-up doses of vaccines. By June 30, 2020, children who had or would have had religious exemptions should be fully vaccinated according to the catch-up schedule; after that date, students without medical exemptions will not be able to attend school if they are not fully vaccinated.

Does the change in the law apply to students who receive special education services?

Yes. However, the change does not affect valid medical exemptions. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance to help schools in ensuring that students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act who are medically unable to receive vaccines because of a disability are not discriminated against on the basis of disability.

Does the law apply to public attendance at activities that are on school property, such as sporting events and plays?

No, it does not apply to attendance at activities on school property that are open to the general public.

Must I schedule all of my child’s appointments for required doses, including all follow-up doses, within 30 days of the first day of attendance?

Parents and guardians must demonstrate, within 30 days of the first day of attendance, that their child has age-appropriate appointments scheduled for the next follow-up doses to complete the immunization series in accordance with recommendations on the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices schedule. However, the actual appointments for the follow-up doses may be more than 30 days out, as long as they are in accordance with the ACIP schedule shown online here

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