ALBANY — A Queens state senator is set to introduce a bill that would require parents who don’t want to vaccinate their kids to prove they’ve been counseled by a physician.
“I believe in science, and the science is clear that vaccines are the right answer to help our children avoid disease,” said Democrat Michael Gianaris, the bill sponsor.
The legislation, which will be introduced Monday, would require parents who want to opt out to submit to their kid’s school an affidavit signed by a physician saying that they discussed the medical risks of skipping vaccinations.
“The idea is that education will help overcome the anecdotal gossip that is threatening the health of kids around the country now,” Gianaris said.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris will introduce the bill to the Senate.
He added: “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.”
The legislation is being carried in the Assembly by Aravella Simotas (D-Queens). The mother of a toddler, Simotas 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.
But 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.
“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,” Fisher said.
The federal government and states require kids to be immunized against an array of diseases like measles and mumps in order to go to school.
New York allows exemptions based on “genuine and sincere” religious beliefs. There are also limited medical exemptions.
The state Health Department says that 97% of students statewide are completely immunized.
The anti-vaccine movement gained steam several years ago after a since discredited report claimed that vaccines were behind a rise in autism rates.