NYSDOH Issues Emergency Regulations for Granting Medical Exemptions From Immunizations

On August 19, 2019, the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) emailed physicians regarding emergency regulations issued by the New York State Department of Health with regard to granting medical exemptions from immunizations. The email – which appears below – includes an update on this developing topic, along with links to important resources.

Dear Physicians:

On Friday, the New York State Department of Health issued emergency regulations to strengthen and clarify the process by which physicians can grant medical exemptions under the new state law which repealed non-medical exemptions for children attending school or daycare.  

The new regulations are effective immediately and provide clear, evidenced based guidance to physicians on appropriate issuance of medical exemptions.  The Department, in collaboration with the Office of Children and Family Services and the State Education Department, has issued a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the new law FAQ issue August 16, 2019.   

Effective immediately, physicians who issue medical exemptions will be required to complete the applicable medical exemption form approved by the New York State Department of Health or New York City Department of Education, which specifically outlines the medical reason(s) that prevent a child from being vaccinated. Additionally, the regulations require physicians to outline specific justifications for each required vaccine in order to be able to grant an exemption. 

Previously, regulations allowed for a physician to submit a signed statement to schools without having to document on an approved form stating why immunization may be detrimental to the child’s health. The emergency regulations apply to all children statewide, and they continue to require that medical exemptions must be reissued annually. By providing clear, evidence-based guidance to physicians regarding when immunization may be detrimental to a child’s health, this emergency regulation will help prevent medical exemptions from being issued for inappropriate reasons. 

Public Health Law §2164, as amended by Chapter 35 of the Laws of 2019, applies to students attending all schools as defined in Public Health Law §2164 to include any public, private or parochial child-caring center, day nursery, day care agency, nursery school, kindergarten, elementary, intermediate or secondary school. The NYS Department of Health encourages parents and guardians of all children who do not have their required immunizations to receive the first dose in each immunization series as soon as possible. 

The deadline for obtaining first dose vaccinations in each immunization series for children attending school in the fall is 14 days from the first day of school or enrollment in child day care. Within 30 days of the first day of school, parents and guardians of such children must show that they have scheduled appointments for all required follow-up doses. 

As of August 16, 2019, there were 1,044 cases of measles in New York State. Measles is a reportable disease and physicians are encouraged to seek further information on the New York City Department of Health/Mental Hygiene website here or at the New York State Department of Health website here.  

MSSNY has a free CME program on measles is available here.  Users new to the site will have to establish an account; all others will need to just log into the website and access the program entitled: The Continued Public Health Threat of Measles 2018.