Assemblyman Nader Sayegh, D-Yonkers, had heart switch on June 13, 2019, which allowed a bill to end religious exceptions for vaccines to move forward.
Jon Campbell, email@example.com
Amish and Mennonite communities are preparing for a hard push to implement a new law that concludes religious exemptions for New York school vaccinations.
The mobilization comes after state legislators passed the vaccination mandate in response to historic measles outbreaks in Rockland County and New York City, which have confirmed more than 854 cases of the highly contagious disease since the fall.
Most cases are spread in orthodox Jewish communities with low rates of vaccination among children, a risk that the law aims to restrict by excluding unvaccinated children from schools, unless they have a medical reason that prevents immunization.
Similarly, many Amish and Mennonite children are not fully vaccinated against infectious diseases and now need to be immunized to school.
Why It's a Worry
The Amish community will be among those to find out how to deal with a new state law that prohibits a religious exception for vaccines. (Photo: Jennifer Corbett, The News Journal)
The Amish and the Mennonite are closely related religious sects that typically reside in dense farming groups that remove modern technology, most commonly identified by horse-drawn buggy sightings alongside New York's lanes.
Most live in rural pockets in the Finger Lakes and other upstate New York enclaves, home to about 20,000 Amish and thousands of Mennonites.
Public health officials have spent the past few weeks educating Mennonite and Amish about the new vaccination law, said Livingston County Public Health Director Jennifer Rodriguez.
"They are certainly aware that this would be an option, but I cannot say for certain that we have made them accept any form of vaccination at this time," she said.
However, Rodriguez and other health officials noted that it is still unclear how to enforce the new law in some private schools.
How will it be enforced?
Robert Kennedy Jr. talking about an anti-vaccine rally in Albany on Tuesday. State lawmakers are debating a bill that would put an end to religious exemption for vaccines.
Chad Arnold, Staff Writer
Key questions include the potential legal and tax implications for private schools run by Amish and Mennonite families, says Yates County Health Director Sara Christensen, who added state regulators expected to provide guidance soon.
"They start school in August, so we have a lot of work to get the message to the parents and inform them that they no longer require religious exceptions," she said.
However, as many secular societies, the reasons why Amish parents choose not to vaccinate children, vary largely from uninformed fear of health risks to personal interpretations of religion, according to Karen Johnson-Weiner, a professor of SUNY Potsdam and Amish.
"Historically, (Amish) churches have not taken a stand for vaccination, so it can make things move more smoothly," she said, noting that each Amish community has different congregation rules.
"But I can't predict it because there is also tradition, which is so important within the Amish communities, doing things as they always have been done," she added.
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New York's new law
Sen. David Carlucci on Thursday discusses legislation that requires all children to be vaccinated before they are enrolled in the summer camp.
Chad Arnold, Staff Writer
Last week, New York became the fifth state without a religious or philosophical exception to vaccines required for school.
In the 2017-18 school year, about 26,000 students were exempted from vaccination based on religious beliefs in New York, according to the State Department of Health. This is about 1% of school children.
The law will allow a deadline of 30 June 2020 for children to go to school if they can show that they have "received at least the first dose in each immunization series" before then. An exception for legitimate medical issues remains.
The politically charged vaccination debate comes as an international journey, and vaccine stays have revived the measles virus that was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.
The masking season has recently exceeded 1,000 – the highest in 27 years, said the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
Measles and Amish
While the current measles outbreaks have not hit New York's Amish and Mennonite communities, their low vaccination rates put them at increased risk.
For example, a comprehensive measles outbreak spread among Amish in Ohio in 2014 and caused 383 cases. Experts said it might have been worse, if not for public health officials convincing the communities to be vaccinated, a strategy that is now being duplicated in New York.
A pillar of this effort is the trust already forged in the Mennonite and Amish communities through a number of public health services, said Rodriguez, Livingston County's Public Health Director.
Environmental officials, for example, consult water supply and septic system projects. Health officials do good baby visits and monitor everything from maternal health to hospice care, she said.
"Of course, the religious exemption can be a much more difficult conversation to have, but I believe our credibility and relationship with the families is positive," she said. "It is fortunate that we do not come in from outside."
New York's Amish population of about 20,000 scattered over 58 settlements across the country is the fifth highest national, behind Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.
There are about 325,000 Amish throughout the country and thousands more Mennonites.
Local Preparation for Vaccine Law
Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan discusses his attitude to ending religious exceptions for vaccinations
Chad Arnold, Staff Writer
In Yates County, Christensen Mennonite's reasons for rejecting vaccinations were largely personal as opposed to religious and quoted interactions during years of outreach work in society.
"It depends, some just don't think the kids need them, and they're not in danger," she said.
However, erroneous information on vaccine hygiene risks spreading across the country, rural and island Amish and Mennonite homes occurred.
"Some believe that the vaccines are not safe despite our educational efforts, and some are afraid of side effects and just the misconceptions that exist in the general community," Christensen said.
Johnson-Weiner expanded on outsiders affecting Amish's thinking on vaccines, citing a study that found their communities across the country, had immunization rates ranging from virtually non-existent to nearly 100%.
"That's because Amish is congregating me and every congregation is self-employed … but it's also some influence from the surrounding English people," she said, referring to non-Amish.
"If their closest neighbors were English people opposed to vaccination, they didn't do vaccinations," she said.
Addressing Vaccine Concerns
Here's why New York's new law completes the religious waiver of vaccinations. The movement came as the fight against measles outbreaks in Rockland County and New York City continues.
To remove the vaccine hesitation, public health officials regularly visit Mennonite communities across the Finger Lakes, offering home immune systems, training sessions, and vaccine clinics, Rodriguez said.
Like the current outbreak spread, Yates and Schuyler Counties health departments also issued a warning published on May 28 in a Mennonite, Amish newsletter called Flame.
"As tourism is increasing in the coming months, and community members are traveling for summer holidays or mission trips, there is potential for measles to spread into our society," the statement said.
But one of the most important enforcement challenges is that Amish private schools and communities rely on few public programs and funding, Johnson-Weiner says.
"It will be difficult with Amish groups because they kind of take care of things in their own community," she said.
On the other hand, the authorities are likely to have more opportunities to pursue legal and financial sanctions against private schools that take tax dollars and state aid, but refuse to comply with the new vaccination law.
In addition, many Amish private schools do not control vaccinations that are less common in some Amish communities in part because many mothers live at home using midwives, Johnson-Weiner said.
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Whopping cough, kiss and measles
Christensen stressed, however, that the Yates community has historically rejected attempts increase its vaccination rates, which hover around 50% and are among the lowest statewide.
The limited success stories involved an outbreak that hit home as a huge eruption some years ago. 19659005] Having heard no friends' heartbreaking stories of helplessly seeing their children tremendously retching and suffering all night, some Mennonite parents changed their minds on immunization, Christensen said.
"I wouldn't say a huge increase, but we've probably vaccinated 10 new families because of it and it's 10 more in our books," she said.
In a similar push, public health personnel in Delaware last year also began to reach the Amish community during an outbreak of 97 cases of huge cough, officially known as pertussis, powered by low vaccination rates, US TODAY Network reported.
Yet Rodriguez proposed to end religious exemptions from school vaccination in New York has proved to be effective already, citing the reaction of a parent to an unvaccinated child afflicted with the hop eruption last month at Livonia High School.
The student should not enter school, one of them went ahead and got their baby to the first dose of vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), "she said.
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