NYS DOH offers 30-day grace period on vaccine requirement for students learning virtually

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Students across New York State are required to have all of their vaccines completed within 14 days of the start of in-person instruction. If not, they are not allowed in school, and this year, that means they’re not allowed to participate in online learning, either. 

Over the last few weeks, a number of parents and guardians have reached out to NEWS10 ABC expressing their frustrations. Perry Pelomero has a daughter in Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga Springs. He said, with immune-compromised relatives in their home, they chose to keep their daughter fully remote this year.

“That was the thing that didn’t make any sense to me as far as being all-virtual is concerned,” said Pelomero. 

According to the New York State Department of Health, while remote students are at a lesser risk for acquiring or transmitting diseases to classmates, the requirement is meant to ensure the protection of the greater community as well. 

Stacy Robertson told NEWS10 she was not deliberately trying to be noncompliant, but there were a number of roadblocks that prevented her son from getting his meningitis vaccine, many of which were due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I mean, I don’t see any reason to remove someone from virtual school because they don’t have one vaccination. Ya know, especially given the circumstances,” said Robertson.

She said first they changed doctors and were unable to get the correct records, and then they discovered the doctor was out of the vaccine. Then, when they had the appointment lined up, her son was told he was exposed to COVID-19 and was placed under mandatory quarantine and was unable to go to the doctor’s office. She said she had to jump through hoops in order to get her son the shot so that he wouldn’t miss any additional days of school.

“After the Sheriff called public health, public health called my doctor and convinced them to give him the meningitis shot in the parking lot in full PPE,” said Robertson.

“Just making her a doctor’s appointment was very difficult because they’re all backed up,” said Palermo. He added that while the school recommended he could bring his daughter to a clinic, that’s something he said he didn’t feel safe doing due to the risk of possible exposure.

On Monday, the New York State Department of Health issued new guidance, acknowledging that the pandemic has created some difficulties for families. They’re now offering a 30-day grace period, which will allow students to continue with online education while working to get their vaccines up to date.

This grace period only applies to those doing virtual learning, not in-person instruction.

“I’m glad that they made the change; it’s sad to me that it took so many people to complain,” said Robertson.

In order to be granted the grace period, parents or guardians must provide proof with an affidavit indicating that they have every intention of getting their required vaccines during the 30-day period.

According to the new guidance from the New York State Department of Health:

“During this grace period, students engaged in remote learning must obtain all required vaccinations, if they have not already, to be eligible to continue attending school following expiration of this guidance. As a condition of attending remote learning activities during this 30-day period, parents of remote learning students must submit an affidavit, in a form and manner determined by the school, acknowledging intention to obtain the appropriate vaccinations during the 30 day period. Please note that, as in past school years, schools must continue to prohibit any student from attending school in-person, where the school has not received evidence of all required vaccinations within 14 days from the first day of admission. During the 30-day period of this guidance, impacted schools must coordinate with parents and their local department of health to establish a time and place at which an immunizing agent or agents shall be administered to students lacking proof of required vaccinations, as required by law. Local health departments are reminded that they must cooperate in arranging for these vaccinations. If cooperation does not occur, the commissioner is authorized to step in and may recover the cost from the amount of state aid owed to the local department.”


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