New York’s 2019 Vaccination Law Affects Christian Schools

On June 13, 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Bill S.2994-A-Hoylman/A.2371-A-Dinowitz into law. The law went into effect immediately. This legislation, now known as Chapter 35 of the Laws of 2019, repealed the previously-existing exemption to child vaccination requirements for parents with religious objections to vaccinations. Many are asking how this new law will affect private schools. This memorandum will summarize the impact of Chapter 35 of the Laws of 2019 upon Christian schools.

Public Health Law § 2164(7) provides as follows: “No principal, teacher, owner, or person in charge of a school shall permit any child to be admitted to such school, or to attend such school, in excess of fourteen days” absent proof that a child has been immunized against various diseases.[1] Public Health Law § 2164(1)(b) defines a child as “any person between the ages of two months and eighteen years.”

Public Health Law § 2164(1)(a) defines a school as “any public, private or parochial child caring center, day nursery, day care agency, nursery school, kindergarten, elementary, intermediate or secondary school.” Chapter 35 of the Laws of 2019 did not make changes to this definition.

There is now only one exception to the vaccination requirement set forth at Public Health Law § 2164(7). That exception in situations where a New York-licensed physician certifies that immunization “may be detrimental to a child’s health.” However, a school may allow an unvaccinated student to attend for up to 30 days “where such student is transferring from out-of-state or from another country and can show a good faith effort to get the necessary certification.” Also, Chapter 35 of the Laws of 2019 provides that a school may allow an unvaccinated student to attend for up to 30 days in a situation “where the parent, guardian, or any other person in parental relationship to such child can demonstrate the a child has received at least the first dose in each immunization series required by this section and has age appropriate appointments scheduled to complete the immunization series”; this provision will expire on June 30, 2020.

It should be noted that as of June 2019, some counties in New York—including Rockland County and Ulster County—‘have issued public orders requiring all summer camps to admit only campers and staff who have proof of immunity or a medical exemption, or are in the process of receiving the MMR vaccine.’ Christian summer camps are advised to check with their respective counties to find out whether such orders have been issued.

Court challenges, particularly from Children’s Health Defense, are anticipated.

[1]  New York’s child vaccination requirements are set forth at Public Health Law § 2164(2) (see