In case you weren't already aware, the U.S. is still dealing with the worst measles outbreaks in decades. And when it comes to public health, some states are no longer messing around. New York is among the states that have stopped religious exemptions when it comes to parents opting out of vaccinating their children. Since the law officially went into effect, anti-vaxxers are protesting after their kids were kicked out of school.
So here's what's going on: Back in June, the state of New York banned religious exemptions — as well as other non-medical exemptions for schoolchildren across the state, according to NPR. The ban is already in effect, actually. However, parents actually had a 14-day grace period once the school year started. This means children could still attend school for two weeks while the kids got caught up on vaccines, or parents obtained the proper paperwork proving the vaccinations. Once this grace period ended, the children would no longer be permitted to attend school if they remained un- or under-vaccinated.
“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement at the time. “While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
(And no, vaccines still have no link to autism.)
As of this week, the grace period is over and the state has begun to enforce the new rule. And let me tell you, anti-vaxx parents are not happy about it. Many anti-vaxxers have taken to social media to share photos of themselves protesting their kids getting kicked out of school, according to BuzzFeed News. Some are resorting to home-schooling their children. Others have even compared the new rule to Jim Crow laws.
But Twitter is not impressed. Not in the least. One period tweeted, "The irony is that many of these privileged parents are alive and healthy enough to hold up protest signs because they were ... wait for it ... VACCINATED."
Another Twitter user wrote, "My general objections to anti-vaxxers aside, it's honestly horrifying that anti-vaxxers are comparing this to racial discrimination."
Yet another person chimed in with, "I’m sorry but the signs held up by these people are laughable. Not vaccinating your kids is not laughable. You endanger your child as well as the entire public."
So far in 2019, there have been 1,291 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) To put things in perspective (In 2010, there were only 63). From October 2018 to Sept. 3, 2019, 654 people were diagnosed with measles in New York alone. It's worth noting the outbreak in New York has since been declared ended. However, the importance of vaccines remains. And the state of New York has made it clear that it is no longer willing to put the public's health at risk by accommodating anti-vaxxers.