On June 13, 2019 Governor Cuomo signed legislation that removed non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children. This means parents or guardians may no longer claim any exemption other than a medical one. To attend public, private or parochial schools for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 or to attend child day care, children must be fully vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. 

It is important for parents and guardians to be aware of what qualifies as a medical exemption.

Your health care practitioner must follow guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 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.

Some parents wish to seek a medical exemption for their child when there are no medical complications present. 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. 

Once the form is completed, it must be submitted to the school or day care program which the child is to attend. The final judgment about the document is made by either the principal or school superintendent. If the parent or guardian disagrees with the decision of the school, there are ways to appeal the decision. This can be done through the State Education Department Commissioner, however, there is no appeal process for child day care programs. These programs must comply with all applicable laws. 

The deadline for obtaining your child’s first vaccine doses for attending school or day care this fall is 14 days from the first day of school or enrollment in day care. Within 30 days of school starting, parents and guardians must show that they have scheduled appointments for all required follow up doses.  

This law was written because vaccines prevent death and permanent disability. 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.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Tompkins County Health Department at 274-6604 and ask for “Immunizations.”

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