Assemblyman Burke: Vaccinations Protect Our Children from Dangerous Diseases

June 13, 2019

Assemblyman Pat Burke (D-Buffalo) announced that legislation he co-sponsored to repeal all nonmedical exemptions from vaccination requirements for children passed the Assembly (A.2371-A).

“Children across New York State are falling prey to preventable diseases, and it’s about time we take action to combat this dangerous trend,” Burke said. “This legislation is not about infringing on someone’s religious freedom, but is rather about protecting public health. It’s the only way to keep those who can’t be vaccinated safe, including infants and New Yorkers with immune disorders. Vaccinations save lives, plain and simple, and I’ll always put New Yorkers’ safety and well-being first.”

The current measles outbreak has already impacted thousands of children across the United States. According to the New York State Department of Health, there have been 336 confirmed measles cases in New York State outside of New York City. [1]

Existing New York State law requires all children attending school receive immunizations for poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), hepatitis B and varicella; however, a child can be exempted when a physician certifies that it could be detrimental to their health, or for certain nonmedical reasons. The legislation would change this law by ending all nonmedical exemptions from vaccination requirements for children, including for religious beliefs.

Under this measure, children without a certificate or other form of acceptable evidence of receiving the required immunizations will not be allowed admission to a school or continued attendance for more than 14 days. The legislation would allow certain unvaccinated children to receive an extended grace period of 30 days if they are transferring from out of state or from another country and can show they are trying to get the certification, or they have received at least the first dose of each required immunization series and have age-appropriate appointments scheduled to complete the immunization process.

This legislation comes a few months after the Orchard Park School District prohibited two teenagers from attending school because they had not received all of their required vaccinations. The teenagers’ mother argued that her daughters were exempt from these vaccines due to religious beliefs; however a State Supreme Court judge and the New York State Education Department both denied her appeal and ruled in favor of the school district. [2]

Burke has been an outspoken supporter of vaccinations and has been educating Western New York communities about the importance of vaccination through a public information campaign. He has distributed informational posters throughout the community to outline the benefits of vaccination and has used social media to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.

“Someone’s decision not to vaccinate their kids for a nonmedical reason puts that child’s life and the lives of other students in danger,” Burke said. “Scientific research continues to show that vaccines are safe and help your body fight off diseases. By eliminating these nonmedical exemptions, we can ensure students who can be vaccinated are, protect their peers who cannot, and prevent another dangerous outbreak from happening again.”