BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — When New York lawmakers revoked a religious exemption for mandatory school vaccinations, the change sent thousands of the state’s parents scrambling to get their kids shots — or get them out of the classroom entirely.
Lawmakers did away with the exemption in June amid the nation’s worst measles outbreak since 1992. More than 26,000 children in public and private schools and day care centers had previously gone unvaccinated for religious reasons, according to the state Health Department.
Now time is running short. Unvaccinated students have 14 days from the start of school to prove they received the first dose of each immunization, and they must make appointments for the next round within a month. Most schools reopen just after Labor Day.
Some parents opposed to vaccinations are choosing to pull their kids from school rather than comply.
“Those that are choosing to vaccinate, it’s not because their beliefs have changed,” said Jina Gentry, a Buffalo mother of four who will home-school her children rather than have them vaccinated. She said not everyone has the means or time to do the same.
At the private Aurora Waldorf School in suburban Buffalo, parents of 21 students said they would not be attending this fall, rather than rush to vaccinate, said administrator Anna Harp, who oversees about 175 students from preschool to eighth grade.
“Some families have told us that they plan to home-school, and a few said that they were moving out of New York,” Harp said. “Several families have told us that they plan to return once their children’s immunizations are up to date.”
New York became the fourth state, along with California, Mississippi and West Virginia, to eliminate religious and personal-belief exemptions for vaccines. Maine will remove them in 2021. All states allow medical exemptions.
Learn more about: The clock is ticking on NY deadline for student vaccinations