County Executive’s Corner “End Non-Medical Exemptions”

By County Executive Day

As you all know by now, here in Rockland we have tried every strategy we can think of, and that the courts will allow, to combat our measles outbreak which has now entered its 8th month.

We have had enough. Earlier this week I traveled to Albany with Dr. Ruppert, our Commissioner of Health, to advocate for the passage of a bill (S.2994/A.2371) which would eliminate all non-medical exemptions to vaccination. The recognition of how serious a problem we are facing was refreshing to see from our state delegation and the sponsors of this bill in the Senate and Assembly.

Vaccinations are safe. It is necessary that all who are physically able to receive them do so. This is the only way to protect the health of those who are unable to receive their life-saving benefits; infants, the immunocompromised, cancer survivors, unimmunized pregnant women and those with legitimate medical issues.

Here in our nation we are privileged enough to have seen many diseases completely eliminated. Smallpox and polio; diseases which once struck fear into the hearts of parents have been forgotten along with their danger.

However, through our actions in Rockland, we have brought focus to a shocking global problem; the return of a preventable, once eradicated disease to our state and Nation. We are in a pitched battle right now, as my county, with only one-tenth of one percent of the nation’s population has 29% of all the measles cases in the United States.

According to UNICEF, a mixture of complacency, misinformation, skepticism about immunizations, and a lack of access to these shots has led to inadequate vaccination rates globally. They estimate that between 2010 and 2017:

• The U.S. topped the list for the number of unvaccinated children in high-income countries, with 2,593,000 missing the first dose of the vaccine.

• The comparable figure for France was 600,000.

• The UK came third, with 527,000 children not getting their first dose of the vaccine over the seven-year period.

One must ask, how on earth did this happen? As a state and a nation, we need to address this now. We must pass this legislation in New York and around the country. Our federal government must take action nationally to increase vaccination rates. Either through Congressional action or Presidential executive order.

California has shown how successful this type of legislation can be. In 2015, they eliminated their personal belief exemptions to vaccinations and by 2017 saw a 4.7% increase in immunization rates in kindergartners. Bringing their rate up to 95.1%, the rate required for herd immunity. California took action to protect the children of their state; now we must do the same.

This needs to be done. Not tomorrow, not in a week, month or year. It must be done immediately. To do any less is both a disservice to and betrayal of the people of this country.