New York City’s health commissioner plans to issue an executive order mandating vaccinations for personal or religious reasons for any incoming schoolchildren who otherwise would not have them required by law.
The City Council approved the measure earlier this month and a public health department spokesman confirmed that Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett will sign it Monday.
The move comes as New York’s second-largest school district is considering whether to require children to get vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, after a rash of cases of the disease diagnosed in the city has sickened more than 170 people statewide.
Parents at a Board of Education meeting last week urged the board to exclude unvaccinated children from school.
“Kids can’t stay home from school. So I’m not going to let them,” said lawyer Sydney Stephens, who brought a case against the city for failing to give her vaccinations when she was a child. “I was told I wasn’t vaccinated, but it’s not true. There’s plenty of information. There’s enough for the school to know that I was vaccinated.”
Lawsuits are pending against the city and educational providers for students who were wrongly denied the MMR vaccine.
The case of Marys Stewart was also presented at the Board of Education meeting last week.
“I’ve become a migraine headache that affects the whole system,” she said. “I was vaccinated. But I now am not as good at managing my brain as I was then.”
Marys Stewart is one of the people the city is currently investigating.
“At this point, we believe there is evidence that additional cases of measles may exist within the city and that the disease could potentially be transferred between students and individuals not vaccinated against the disease,” city health officials said last week in a statement.
Officials also said there have been 97 confirmed measles cases across New York in recent weeks.
“Obviously, we’re alarmed,” Bassett said last week. “This is obviously an exceptionally high number of cases… we’re trying to get as much information as we can about where the cases have come from, how they are spread.”
The city health department did not respond to multiple requests for comment Sunday.
The Executive Order requiring vaccines was recommended by the Institute of Medicine. It could potentially affect any student who doesn’t get a medical exemption, which would require a doctor’s note, the act is meant to stop an estimated 600,000 unvaccinated children from attending public schools, hospitals, day care centers and other public health facilities.
According to the order, starting with the 2019-2020 school year, a parent or guardian who objects to a child’s vaccination based on religious or medical reasons would not be allowed to enroll them in school.
The health department would also monitor schools to make sure students get vaccinations and notify the schools if any are not done. Any school that refuses would be fined up to $500.