ALBANY – New York State Senator and top Democrat Michael Gianaris introduced legislation on April 13 requiring parents who don’t want their children to be vaccinated to prove they have received counseling from a doctor.
“I believe in science, and the science is clear that vaccines are the right answer to help our children avoid disease,” Gianaris told the New York Daily News, adding “The idea is that education will help overcome the anecdotal gossip that is threatening the health of kids around the country now.”
“It’s no coincidence that measles and whooping cough are at their highest levels in decades at a time when parents opting out of vaccinating their kids is at its highest level in decades,” he said
Gianaris’ bill requires parents who want to opt out to present an affidavit to their children’s school signed by a physician saying that they discussed the medical risks of skipping vaccinations.
“The anti-vaccine movement gained steam several years ago after a since discredited report claimed that vaccines were behind a rise in autism rates,” according to the News.
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who like Gianaris, represents Astoria, and says her child is up to date on all vaccines.
“It’s crucially important for parents to have sound, up-to-date medical information when making decisions that affect the health of their children,” she said.
“With new families joining our community every day due to changes in the immigration law championed by Senator Charles Schumer, we have an obligation to ensure that parents new to this country have the most up-to-date, medically accurate information, especially when making health decisions for their children,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas.
The New reports that “a national group supportive of giving parents the choice whether to vaccinate their children fears the legislation would lead to doctors trying to intimidate parents into vaccinating their kids. Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, said vaccines affect kids in different ways and the decision whether to immunize best rests with the parents.”
Fisher said,“Parents shouldn’t be put in the position of being harassed and punished for not following a doctor’s orders or made to feel like they’re bad parents when they are trying to be good parents.”
Children are required by the federal government and states to be immunized against a number of diseases, including measles and mumps, in order to be allowed to attend school, but New York allows permits limited exemptions and based on medical reasons and “genuine and sincere” religious beliefs.
The state Health Department says that 97% of students statewide are completely immunized, but Gianaris told TNH that “We have disturbing increase in the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children and more kids than at any time in recent history are getting measles and whooping cough, so it is critical that we follow the directives of all the credible doctors and scientists…to keep these diseases from spreading.
“There is a concept in the science called ‘herd immunity,’ which means that only when a critical mass of the population gets immunized to does immunization work.” The number is believed to be 90-95 percent.
Gianaris agrees the well-informed friends and relatives have a role to play in persuading families that want to opt out. “Some people think they are making decisions only for themselves. It’s bad enough that they are putting their own children at risk, but they are putting the most vulnerable people in our society at risk.”
Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said, “I support Senator Gianaris’ and Assemblymember Simotas’ bills to require parents who don’t want to vaccinate their kids to prove they’ve been counseled by a physician. Science has proven that vaccines are safe. Not vaccinating children poses great public health risks, especially to children who are too young to receive the vaccines but can still contract symptoms. These bills would require doctors to discuss the health risks of skipping vaccinations with parents. I commend Senator Gianaris and Assembly member Simotas for their leadership on this important issue.”