Federal court joins New York on vaccination requirements for schools

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against a group of New York parents who sued after the state made it harder for children to obtain medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements, which were tightened after a major measles outbreak in 2019.

The 2nd US Circuit of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Families and Children’s Health Defense, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vaccine group.

The lawsuit challenged state regulations enacted in 2019 that abolished religious exemptions for vaccines and limited eligibility for medical exemptions to children with only a few rare conditions, such as: B. severe allergic reactions to a previous vaccine dose or certain severe disorders of the immune system. State-approved exemptions follow guidelines from a federal advisory body.

The families argued that the regulations violated their rights because school officials could refuse applications on behalf of vulnerable children even if a doctor found medical necessity for an exemption.

The Appellate Body dismissed that argument, writing in the decision that “the new rules require applications to meet evidence-based national standards to ensure physicians do not recommend medical exceptions conclusively or on non-medical grounds.”

New York’s longstanding immunization rules do not mandate children to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Sujata Gibson, an attorney for the plaintiffs who was from different school districts across the state, said she was disappointed with the decision.

“The real question here is: who decides when it comes to medical exemptions?” she said. “Is it the attending physician or the headmaster?”

Vaccine resistance helped fuel a measles outbreak that sickened nearly 1,300 people in 2019, the highest number of cases reported in the United States since 1992.

Vaccination hesitancy persists in some of the New York City communities that were the epicenter of this outbreak. Earlier this month, health officials in Rockland County, northwest of New York City, reported that an unvaccinated young adult had contracted polio in the first US case of the disease in nearly a decade. Federal court joins New York on vaccination requirements for schools


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