Back to School: No Religious Exemption for Immunizations in New York

July 29, 2019 | Legislation and Public Policy | Litigation

As parents and healthcare providers prepare for the start of the new school year, there are now more than 26,000 students who will need to get vaccinated as New York has eliminated exemptions from vaccinations due to religious beliefs. New York Public Health Law §§ 2164 and 2165 require students to be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, varicella, and meningococcal disease.  If a child does not get vaccinated, he or she will not be able to attend school.

The change in the law was sparked by recent measles outbreaks in Rockland County. The highest numbers of students who had religious exemptions from vaccination were in Suffolk, Nassau, and Rockland Counties. While a legal challenge to the change in the law is ongoing in State Supreme Court, a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the repeal of the religious exemption was denied, so students will need to be vaccinated for the coming school year.

Only five states other than New York have no religious exemption to vaccination requirements.

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