New York’s legislature enacted and Governor Cuomo signed a bill eliminating New York’s religious exemption from immunization. The bill, which may be accessed here, goes into effect immediately.
The bill amends New York Public Health Law § 2164 by repealing subsection 9 of the statute, which provided for exemption from immunization for children whose parent(s)/guardian(s) held a sincere religious belief contrary to the practice. It is important to note that the medical exemption remains in effect. The previous version of the statute is available here, on the New York Department of Health website.
The amendment provides a grace period that will assist families previously covered by the religious exemption that are just beginning the process of having their children immunized. Prior to enactment of the amendment, schools were required to exclude a child from school after fourteen days if there was no certificate or other evidence demonstrating that the child had all required immunizations. That grace period was extended to thirty days for students transferring from out of state or from another country if the family could show a good faith effort to obtain the necessary certificate or other evidence of immunization. The newly enacted statutory amendment applies this “good faith effort” extension to a child whose parent(s)/guardian(s) “can demonstrate that [the] child has received at least the first dose in each immunization series required … and has age appropriate appointments scheduled to complete the immunization series …” However, this new grace period is only in effect until June 30, 2020.
As noted, the medical exemption remains in effect. A medical exemption is applicable only if a New York licensed physician certifies that one or more immunizations may be detrimental to a child’s health, and the exemption continues only so long as such immunization(s) remain detrimental. School Districts may inquire into the nature of the request for medical exemptions and should work with their school physicians where appropriate to determine if any requests for medical exemption lack an adequate actual medical basis.
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding this legal alert or require further assistance with this topic, please feel free to contact Susan Fine or the attorney with whom you usually work.