New vaccine mandate leads to more students being homeschooled

Five Southold students and eight Mattituck students are now being homeschooled after not meeting state immunization standards, district officials said last week.

Four months ago, New York State tightened requirements for school vaccinations and ended non-medical exemptions amid one of the worst measles outbreaks since 1992.

Children with non-medical exemptions must now be vaccinated to attend or remain in public schools and day care services. Students with a valid medical exemption from a physician are permitted to remain in school.

Before the mandate deadline, 15 students in the Southold School District had religious exemptions from vaccinations, Superintendent David Gamberg said. Now, two junior and senior high school students and three elementary school students will be homeschooled as per parental withdrawal.

Roughly 31 students in both Southold schools have received some vaccinations and are expected to receive necessary vaccines in the future, Mr. Gamberg said. It’s unclear how many students in Mattituck-Cutchogue have received only a portion of necessary vaccines.

In neighboring Greenport schools, all families were compliant with the mandate by the deadline, Mr. Gamberg said. While there are homeschooled students in Greenport, the reasons are not related to the recent immunization changes.

Three students in Greenport are “under-immunized,” but Mr. Gamberg said that “is due to extraordinary circumstances and the parents/guardians are working with the school to get them up to date.”

Discussions about immunization laws persist in Southold Town, as a bill recently proposed in Albany could also require that children be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus in order to attend public school or day care.

That bill, currently under review by the state Senate, would require all children born after Jan. 1, 2009, to obtain a dose of immunizing agents against HPV. If approved, the requirement could take effect Sept. 1, 2021.

The HPV vaccine, which prevents certain cancers, is typically given to children around the age of 11 or 12.

The bill states that HPV is “an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection that can be passed even when an infected person is asymptomatic, and can cause genital warts or cancer.”

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who also sponsored legislation eliminating the religious exemption for vaccines for school children.

Routine vaccination could prevent 92% of cancers caused by HPV, saving thousands of lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia currently require the HPV vaccine for children to attend school.

In Riverhead Town, approximately 31 Riverhead Central School District students are now being homeschooled after not meeting state immunization standards, district officials said last week.

Parents and community members in that district flooded a school board meeting last month and requested that the district support them in obtaining an emergency injunction to allow children to stay in school despite the state-imposed mandate.

Roughly five students in Riverhead schools have been excluded from attending school and extracurricular activities because they lack appropriate immunizations, district officials said. The other students being educated at home have been voluntarily withdrawn from school by parents.

However, district officials said that number is fluid, as students who have received their initial series of immunizations can continue to attend school as long as other required immunizations are scheduled.

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