Vaccines Important to Public Health

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
There have been a number of national and local news stories reporting on the increased cases of measles.

The cases have primarily been located in California.

However, nationally, the number of cases of measles in the U.S. grew to 635 in 2014, more than the past four years combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In New York, there were three confirmed cases of measles this year.

Other preventable diseases also made a comeback in recent years.

In 2012, there were 48,277 cases of whooping cough nationally, the most since 1955.  In the Central New York area, there were two suspected cases of mumps in local schools this winter.

These reports have understandably spurred discussions and concerns and accordingly it is important to know about New York’s vaccination requirements, childhood safety, and ways you can help protect your families from diseases that were once thought to be eradicated.

Health care experts attribute some of the uptick in cases to an anti-vaccine movement that started to take shape after 1998 when the media reported that vaccines could cause autism.

Those claims have since been disproven.

Reputable medical journals retracted their initial reports, and subsequent studies have shown there to be no link.

In fact, according to the New York State Department of Health, the doctor responsible for initial reports has been stripped of his medical license for fraudulent reports.

Still, the information convinced and worried many parents who opted not to vaccinate their children, which has contributed to the lower national vaccine rates.

Hopefully, the recent attention brought to this issue will serve to reverse this trend.

Doctors and health care workers encourage children to be vaccinated.

In fact, it’s required in order to attend public schools.

Today vaccines protect the public from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, chickenpox, meningitis, and epiglottitis (a severe throat infection).

Other vaccines are available, but these are the inoculations required to attend school.

Doctors say vaccines are some of the best tools in their toolbox to prevent these deadly diseases from becoming epidemic.

In New York, data shows vaccination rates have remained relatively steady at 95% or greater for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), but there are pockets where rates are lower than in other areas of the state.

To see information about vaccination rates in your local school, the New York State Department of Health offers this map tool:

Generally, vaccination rates are high in the Central New York area.

In New York, parents can obtain a waiver for medical or religious reasons.

In other states like California, it’s possible to obtain a waiver for these reasons as well as for philosophical reasons, which has contributed to the state’s lower vaccination rates.

California is considering changing its public health policy due to recent measles outbreaks since it is highly contagious.

Health providers are concerned especially for those who are not able to be vaccinated, such as those who are receiving chemotherapy, those on immunosuppressants, or those who have had a severe allergic reaction to the shots (anaphylaxis).

These people, as well as very small children who are too young to be inoculated, rely on the larger public to be vaccinated so they are not exposed to the diseases to begin with.

To learn more about the type of vaccines and the recommended ages for each, the State Department of Health publishes this handy chart:

Though pediatricians keep records, they also recommend that parents keep track of the vaccines and mark the dates administered with a chart.

This chart lists the vaccines required by the State Department of Education in order for children to attend school, unless a waiver is obtained:

Medical exemptions are granted but a physician must certify that the immunization is detrimental to a child’s health.

More information and an explanation of medical exemptions can be found at

To read the guidelines for school districts, visit

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.