Get Vaccinated or Leave School: 26,000 N.Y. Children Face a Choice

In the state’s Mennonite and Amish communities, where some schools had high religious exemption rates, health officials reported progress following meetings about the vaccination requirements.

In Yates County in the Finger Lakes region, “well over 50 children” scheduled appointments to get their shots in late August, said Deborah Minor, director of public health for Yates and Schuyler Counties.

“My sense is that the schools are taking this very seriously,” she said.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, the founding dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Rockland County, said public sentiment in his Orthodox Jewish community had “shifted significantly” toward vaccination over the past year because of the measles outbreak, public health outreach and supportive statements by influential rabbis.

“Hopefully, most people will abide,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the health commissioner of Rockland County. But she also said that because her efforts had been focused only on preventing measles, there was much more education to do about vaccines to protect against other diseases.

Some parents who do not want to vaccinate their children are turning to home schooling to avoid running afoul of the new mandates. Under state law, home-schooled children may meet in cooperative learning groups for up to three hours a day.

Miss Megan, a home schooling consultant, said she was opening a new home-school cooperative in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan for parents who do not want to comply with the new order. Some, she said, were forfeiting hefty deposits at private schools. Some, she added, were not against vaccination, but wanted to space out the timing of the shots more than the law will allow.

“It’s a very overwhelming position that a lot of the kids are being put in,” she said.

Kristina Staykova, 43, said she was shutting down her fashion business as she tries to figure out how to home school her children, including a 4-year-old with autism. Her 5-year-old daughter has already been told not to return to Public School 6 on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.