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Medicine vials and syringe

As your children head back to school this fall, make sure vaccination is at the top of your checklist! And remember, if your child had a non-medical religious exemption for the 2018-2019 school year, New York state passed a new law this summer removing non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children. This means there is no longer a religious exemption to the requirement that children be vaccinated against measles and other diseases to attend either public, private or parochial school (for students in prekindergarten through 12th grade), or child day care settings.

This new legislation comes on the heels of the worst measles outbreak since 1992, with over 1,000 cases in 30 states from January through August. More than 75% of the cases this year are linked to outbreaks in New York and New York City. The majority of cases are among people who were not vaccinated against measles.

The New York State Department of Health encourages parents and guardians of all children who do not have their required immunizations to receive the first dose in each immunization series as soon as possible. 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 or enrollment in child day care. Children will be excluded from school if they are not up-to-date with immunizations. 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.

Why are vaccines required? Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools, colleges and summer camps are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. This is why we have state requirements to protect and keep our children healthy. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand-washing, not covering their mouths and noses while coughing, and other factors, such as interacting in crowded environments. Also, diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who are not vaccinated.

Serious health consequences can arise if children are not vaccinated. Without vaccines, children are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities. This includes spreading diseases to babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.

Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox. There are many important reasons to make sure your child is vaccinated:

• Immunizations can protect your child from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old;

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• Vaccination is safe and effective;

• Immunizations can protect others you care about;

• Immunization can save your family time and money;

• Immunization protects future generations by reducing the prevalence of serious diseases.

Each dose of every vaccine is important to protect your child and others in the community from infectious diseases. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional to make sure your child is up-to-date on all the vaccines he or she needs.

The Cayuga County Health Department hosts weekly immunization clinics. Please give us a call should your child needs an immunization. Appointments can be made by calling (315) 253-1560.

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Deanna Ryan, M.S., is a senior public health educator with the Cayuga County Health Department.

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