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Time’s up for school immunizations; 31 students home-schooled in Riverhead

Approximately 31 students in Riverhead Central School District are being home-schooled after not meeting state immunization standards, the district said. 

Four months ago, New York State tightened regulations on school vaccinations requirements and ended non-medical exemptions from vaccines amidst one of the worst measles outbreaks since 1992. Children with nonmedical exemptions must now be vaccinated to attend or remain in public schools and daycare services. Students with a valid medical exemption from a physician are permitted to remain in school.

Roughly five students in Riverhead have been excluded from attending school and extracurricular activities because they lack appropriate immunizations, district officials said. However, district officials said that number is fluid, as students who have received their initial series of immunizations can continue to attend school as long as other necessary immunizations are scheduled.

Riverhead parents and community members flooded a school board meeting last month and requested the district support them in obtaining an emergency injunction to allow children to stay in school despite the state-imposed mandate. 

At that meeting, Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said she wrote two letters asking the Board of Regents, state judges and elected representatives to delay the implementation.

Discussions about immunization laws persist in Riverhead Town as a recent proposed bill in Albany could require children to obtain the human papilloma virus vaccine to attend public school or daycare.

That bill, currently under review by the Senate, would require all children born after Jan. 1, 2009, to obtain a dose of immunizing agents against HPV. If approved, it could take effect Sept. 1, 2021.

The vaccine, which prevents certain cancers, is typically given to children around the age of 11 or 12.

The bill states that HPV is “an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection that can be passed even when an infected person is asymptomatic, and can cause genital warts or cancer.”

Routine vaccination could prevent 92% of cancers caused by HPV, saving thousands of lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who sponsored legislation eliminating the religious exemption for vaccines for school children.

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Gerard Poole did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding immunized students in the district.

Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia require the HPV vaccine for children to attend school.

Captions: Aquebogue Elementary School teacher Keri Stromski (left) and Kristen Kramer lift Ms. Kramer’s son to the microphone at last Tuesday’s Riverhead school board meeting. Ms. Stromski and nearly 30 others attended the meeting to express their frustration with new state legislation that abolishes religious exemption from school vaccinations.

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