Local parents say medical exemptions for vaccines in NYS is near impossible


(NEWS10) — Dozens of unvaccinated children were not allowed to return to school on Friday and won’t be until they get their shots.

Some parents said the new law is flawed and makes it harder for them to get medical exemptions to vaccines.

Previously, physicians and pediatricians could essentially sign off on a piece of paper for a medical exemption. Now, they must fully outline the reason and a justification for it. Then the state, not the school districts, decides whether to grant the exemption.

The state tightened the regulations around the same time they removed the religious exemptions. 

“These regulations will ensure that those who have legitimate medical reasons for not getting vaccinated are still able to obtain medical exemptions, while also preventing abuse of this option by those without such medical conditions,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.

Some local parents argue the state is taking it too far. 

“I can’t even express to you how beyond difficult it is to get a medical exemption in New York State,” said Kristen Coons.


Coons has four children and told NEWS10 ABC all of her kids were being vaccinated until something went horribly wrong with her two youngest.

“My daughter broke out in hives all over her body. Her skin ripped on the sides and bled. She was hospitalized. It was very bad,” said Coons. 

Her son, living with an autoimmune disease, also had a reaction, and that’s when they decided to stop the shots. 

“We talk about the scientific experts, the CDC, but I’m the expert on my child,” said Coons. 

Up until now, they had the religious exemption to fall back on, but that is now no longer an option.

“My son with an autoimmune disorder does not qualify in New York State for a medical exemption. We cannot get one,” said Coons. “I have a husband who is about to be deployed for 11 months away from my four children to fight for the freedoms that we’re supposed to have, and one of them should be what we put into our body.”

Their fourth and fifth graders have one more year until their immunizations expire. Then they will need another round to meet requirements, which Coons said she will not do. For her seventh grader, however, time is up, and he can not attend school. 

“What’s ironic about it all is that my son is out in public now more than ever. He’s home schooled. He goes with me wherever I go. He’s in the grocery store with all of you,” said Coons. 

Children who were not previously vaccinated had 14 days from the first day of school to receive the first age appropriate dose in each immunization series, and 30 days from the first day of school to schedule follow-up appointments.  

The United States recently experienced the worst outbreak of measles in more than 25 years with outbreaks in pockets of New York City primarily driving the crisis. 

If school districts do not comply with excluding unvaccinated students, they face a $2,000 fine per violation. 

Saratoga City Schools told NEWS10 they excluded 66 unvaccinated students Friday.

Albany City Schools releasing the following statement: 

“In July, the City School District of Albany notified the families of 46 students with religious exemptions that they need to comply with the new state law that ends religious exemptions for vaccines for children in schools. Two students without the required vaccines moved into the school district over the summer, bringing the total to 48.

Of the 48: 

  • 21 are now in compliance with the law 
  • 14 are not in compliance with the law 
  • 11 moved or left the school district 
  • 3 are now being home-schooled 

The parents/guardians of the 14 students who are not in compliance with the law have been informed that they must confirm the first dose of the student’s required vaccinations by Monday, which is Sept. 23. If the students who are not in compliance come to school on Tuesday, Sept. 24, they will be treated like any other non-eligible students at a building. That is, they will be brought to the principal’s office, where they will wait while a parent or emergency contact is called to pick them up.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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