Due to serious public health concerns, Governor Cuomo enacted legislation on June 13, 2019, which eliminated the religious exemption from immunizations for school children in public, private and parochial schools (for students in pre-k through 12th grade), as well as in child day care programs. This legislation is effective immediately.
The New York State Public Health Law (“Public Health Law”) requires that school children receive certain immunizations, before they are allowed to attend school. The list of required immunizations includes poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, varicella, hepatitis B, pertussis, tetanus, meningitis and, where applicable, Haemophilus influenzae type b
(Hib) and pneumococcal disease. If school children do not receive all of these required immunizations, they are not allowed to attend school.
Prior to June 13, 2019, there were two valid exemptions to immunizations. The first exemption was the religious exemption, where the individual claiming the exemption had to demonstrate genuine and sincerely held religious beliefs which prohibited immunization. The other exemption is if the required immunization presents a risk to a child’s health.
Going forward, the only valid exemption to immunizations is if a treating physician provides a certification, that the immunization would be detrimental to the child’s health (Public Health Law 2164(8)). Any student who does not qualify for this narrow and limited exemption must be immunized prior to attending school.