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Immunizations: Frequently Asked Questions

On June 13, 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation removing non-medical (i.e. religious) exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children. The new law was effective immediately.

Q
What is the deadline for first dose vaccinations for children attending school in September?
A
The deadline for obtaining first dose vaccinations in each immunization series for children attending school in the fall is 14 days from the first day of school (September 18, 2019). Within 30 days of the first day of school, parents and guardians of such children must show that they have scheduled appointments for all required follow-up doses (October 4, 2019). 
Q
Do I need to schedule all of my child’s appointments for all required doses, including all follow-up doses, within 30 days of the first day of attendance?
A
Parents and guardians must demonstrate, within 30 days of the first day of attendance, that their child has age-appropriate appointments scheduled for the next follow-up doses to complete the immunization series in accordance with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) schedule. However, the actual appointments for the follow-up doses may be more than 30 days out, so long as they are in accordance with the ACIP schedule.
Q
Are children allowed to follow a delayed vaccination schedule for required vaccines?
A
No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) catch-up immunization schedule must be used. Delayed vaccination schedules are not permitted.
Q
Does this new law apply to students aged 18 and older?
A
No. The mandatory vaccination law only applies to a child, which Public Health Law §2164(1)(b) defines as a person between the ages of two months and 18 years. Once a student reaches the age of 18, they are no longer required to show proof of immunization.
Q
Does the new law apply to attendance at activities that are on school property but open to the general public?
A
No. The new legislation does not apply to attendance at activities on school property that are open to the general public, such as SAT prep, sporting events, and plays.
Q
Are partially immunized students who are in-process allowed to attend school?
A
Yes, if they are in-process, which is defined as:
  • having received at least the first dose in each immunization series required;
  • having age-appropriate appointments to complete the immunization series according to the catch-up schedule of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP); and
  • obtaining serological test(s) within 30 days of notification to the parent/guardian of the need for such tests.
Q
If a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, what are the options for the child’s education in New York?
A
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, and whose children do not have a valid medical exemption, still must ensure that children of compulsory school age are educated and, thus, would need to provide home instruction (“homeschooling”) for those children.
Q
Can a homeschooled student attend State tests (e.g. 3-8 State assessments, Regents examinations) held at the school if they are not immunized?
A
No. Only those students who have been vaccinated consistent with Public Health Law §2164 or have a valid medical exemption will be allowed to take such examinations at the school.
Q
Can students who are not immunized and do not have a valid medical exemption be transported using school transportation with other students?
A
No, students who have not been immunized consistent with the requirements of Public Health Law §2164 and do not have a valid medical exemption may not be transported on a school bus or vehicle with other students.
Q
Does the new law apply to students who are receiving homebound instruction, commonly referred to as home/hospital-instruction (not to be confused with homeschooled students)?
A
Yes. Homebound instruction is a form of tutorial services, provided to public or nonpublic students, by the public school district of residence. These services are provided to students who are unable to attend their public or nonpublic school because of physical, mental, or emotional illness or injury.
Q
Does the new law apply to students who receive special education services?
A
Yes, the new law applies to students who receive special education services. However, the new legislation does not affect valid medical exemptions, and the United States Department of Education (“USDE”) has issued guidance to assist schools in ensuring that students with disabilities under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) who are medically unable to receive vaccines due to a disability are not discriminated against on the basis of disability.
Q
My child receives educational services from a public, private, or parochial school off school grounds. Do they need to be vaccinated?
A
If a student is enrolled in the school, regardless of where they receive educational services, they will need to comply with the vaccination requirements for schools.
Q
Who may issue a medical exemption?
A
Pursuant to Section 2164 of the Public Health Law, only physicians licensed to practice medicine in New York State may issue a medical exemption.
Q
What is a valid medical exemption?
A
A valid medical exemption must:
  • be a signed, completed medical exemption form approved by the Department of Health;
  • be from a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State;
  • certify that the immunization “may be detrimental to a child’s health,” meaning a physician has determined that a child has a medical contraindication or precaution to a specific immunization consistent with ACIP guidance or other nationally recognized evidence-based standard of care;
  • contain sufficient information to identify the medical contraindication to a specific immunization and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated; and
  • be confirmed annually.
Q
What is the timeline for review of a medical exemption?
A
The law does not contain a timeline. The district may take up to 10 school days for active review of a medical exemption application, during which time the student is entitled to attend school until the review process is complete. However, if the exemption necessitates a lengthier review additional time will be taken.
Q
If a medical exemption is denied are students required to be exempted immediately?
A
Public Health Law prohibits a school from permitting any child to be admitted or to attend in excess of 14 (calendar) days without sufficient evidence the child has received all age appropriate required vaccinations. After September 18, 2019, a student would need to be excluded immediately, effective the day following the denial of the exemption.
 
 
For more information, please see the New York State Department of Health webpage on School Vaccination Requirements.