Tompkins County Medical Director William Klepack has penned a letter to the editor aimed at clearing up uncertainty over the new vaccination rules that were enacted earlier this summer by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Klepack makes clear the new rules extend to child day care as well as all public, private and parochial schools from pre-kindergarten until grade 12. A child must be fully vaccinated to attend any schooling in the state, and the deadline is 14 days from the start of school or enrollment in day care to receive the first vaccination doses. Appointments for the full schedule of vaccinations must be shown to school officials within the first 30 days of school.
"Your health care practitioner must follow guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)," Klepack wrote. "Only a factor your practitioner believes to be a true risk to your child (what your doctor would call a contraindication) would be acceptable to provide exemption. Complications resulting from a vaccine may last a few to several days but can last much longer and in some cases, be lifelong. The best way to sort this out is to have a conversation with your health care practitioner."
Klepack goes on to obliquely mention people seeking non-medical exemption for their children, usually based on religious or spiritual beliefs. There are quite a few of them in Tompkins County, and several schools in the area were beneath the herd immunity threshold of 95 percent immunization rate among students. It's unclear how the new laws will impact those schools: either families will yield to the state and vaccinate their children, or will opt to pull them out of school entirely, which could greatly hurt some school's enrollment numbers.
"Some parents wish to seek a medical exemption for their child when there are no medical complications present," the letter stated. "The guidelines are clearly written, and the practitioner is limited to the conditions specified. In addition, the practitioner must present enough information to prove the condition exists. It is a violation of law to falsify a record."
The letter ends with an endorsement of the new rules, which have been called an invasive overstep by opponents and anti-vaxxers, but were spurred on by outbreaks throughout New York State over the last calendar year. They've been deemed a necessity to keep children who can't receive vaccinations due to pre-existing conditions safe from preventable diseases.
"This law was written because vaccines prevent death and permanent disability," Klepack concludes. "Having 95% or more of children in a community vaccinated helps to prevent the spread of disease. Children who have medical exemptions are not able to be protected, except by having the vast majority of our community immunized. This helps to prevent a child that cannot be vaccinated from being exposed to the disease, helping them (and all of us) live longer and healthier lives."