Mandatory Immunizations for School Children

The controversy regarding the safety and necessity of immunizations for children has reached a fever pitch in recent years. According to New York State data collected between 2013 and 2014, there were approximately 285 schools in the state where the vaccination rate fell below 85%. The data also showed that 170 schools had an immunization rate of under 70%.

In response, the New York State Assembly passed legislation amending the current laws regarding the mandatory immunization of school children for various illnesses. The recent legislative measures also repeal provisions of the Public Health Law regarding personal exemptions for vaccinations.

According to the legislative memo accompanying the bill, the Assembly was concerned about findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that a high rate of vaccinations was vital to maintaining “herd immunity” to prevent outbreaks of diseases that had been largely eradicated in the U.S., such as measles. The CDC established a goal of securing a minimum 95% vaccination rate to maintain herd immunity.

Rights and Responsibilities of Custodial Parents

Under the new legislation, arrangements for immunizations must be made if one parent consents, but the other does not. However, in cases where a court has awarded sole legal custody to only one parent, only they have the right to make medical decisions on behalf of the child.

Immunizations for the following diseases are required to comply with the new law:

  • Chickenpox
  • Diptheria
  • Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Polio
  • Rubella

Repeals Under the New Legislation

The new law, which went into effect this past July, repealed Public Health Law § 2164(9), which provided for a religious exemption from vaccination for parents with genuine and sincere religious beliefs that would be violated by immunizations.

The non-medical exemption language of Section 2164(9) read: “This section shall not apply to children whose parent, parents, or guardian hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practices herein required, and no certificate shall be required as a prerequisite to such children being admitted or received into school or attending school…”

The new law also amended Public Health Law § 2164(7), which allowed school authorities to admit a student absent proof of full immunization. This provision was initially set to expire on June 30, 2020, at which point the law is considered effectively repealed. The new legislation provides that a child cannot attend more than 14 days of school without proof of immunization.

Extensions of the 14-day period may be granted for transfer students who make a good faith effort to get immunized. However, extensions of the 14-day period may not exceed 30 days.

Procedures for Foster Care

The law also establishes a process for cases where a foster parent refuses to immunize a foster child. Case planners are required to document the foster parent’s refusal and cease making arrangements for immunizations until resolution of the matter.

To resolve a case of parental refusal to immunize a child, the New York state’s Foster Care Agency Medical Director is required to make an assessment of the child’s best interests as they pertain to the issue of immunization.

The Foster Care Agency Medical Director must consider the following factors:

  • The medical fragility of the child
  • Current outbreaks or epidemics in the community
  • The child’s inability to attend school due to the foster parent’s refusal
  • The child’s access to special needed education due to the foster parent’s refusal
  • The daycare needs of the child in light of the foster parent’s work schedule
  • The foster parent’s comfort with having a non-immunized child in the foster home
  • Medical conditions that compromise the immunity of a member of the foster household
  • The child’s preference for immunizations in light of their age and development

Contact the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler for Legal Advice

If you have questions about your parental rights regarding the care, custody, and control of your children, you should seek the professional legal counsel of an attorney. At the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, you can expect to receive comprehensive legal advice and advocacy for matters related to child custody and parental rights.

To arrange for an initial case evaluation with Attorney Hagler, call his office at (516) 514-3868 or complete this online request form today.