Anti-vaxxers in New York are taking to the streets and posting memes to protest a law which bans unvaccinated children from attending school.
The law, which eliminates a religious exemption to vaccine requirements, came into force on June 13 but parents started to feel its impact as the new school year began earlier this month.
The change in policy states all children must start their vaccines within the first two weeks of classes and complete them by the end of the school year. If the requirements are not met, parents must either home-school children or move out of the state.
Hundreds kicked out of school have NOTHING to do so they take a field trip to Albany NY to let the Board of Regents and @NYGovCuomo know #WeAreNotGoingAway building security says he don’t like this! Oh well if they were in school they wouldn’t be here! #DUH pic.twitter.com/zcfOi6fycc
— JustJackie (@Jackie19021587) September 9, 2019
Students can still go to school if they have a medical exemption from vaccinations but it must be approved by a physician with a New York licence.
With many anti-vaxxers still refusing to give in, hundreds of students are left barred from school as the two week deadline passes. Some have compared the law to racial segregation while many others are arguing their ‘healthy’ children should not be condemned because of religious beliefs.
Crowds gathered to protest New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in person while hundreds of others took to Twitter to share their opinions through memes and photos of upset children who are missing out on school, mostly because of their parents’ beliefs.
No one knew who you were 2 years ago. And now here we are. Saving birds and kicking kids out of school. Very progressive of you. pic.twitter.com/a8aYU8MH65
— G.D. (@GD22377992) September 20, 2019
Photo caption: "Anti-vaccine protesters outside an event with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York, on Sept. 18."
— 🌴hydrated & opinionated🌴 (@LiveNudeJulia) September 21, 2019
Please do not attempt to take away our religious rights in NY. There are aborted fetal Cells in the MMR vaccine. That is against my religious beliefs.. Abortion kills a child. I have some serious objections to this. #TeamParentsNY @NYGovCuomo
— Joan Roche (@JoanRoche19) June 9, 2019
Today is my 7 year old son’s last day of school because @NYGovCuomo is violating #religiousfreedom and #humanrights and doing a huge disservice to our kids.
Shame on you. #day15 #notgovernmentproperty #mychildmychoice #notovaccinemandates #bloodonyourhands
— danielle kilkenny (@simplypure_mama) September 16, 2019
One person shared a photo of a young child holding a sign reading ‘I want to go to school’.
The caption reads:
Photo says it all. This child is not to be feared, she does NOT spread disease. Educational & Religious Freedoms are not a privilege. They are a RIGHT!
Photo says it all. This child is not to be feared, she does NOT spread disease. Educational & Religious Freedoms are not a privilege. They are a RIGHT!#NoSATs #NoProm #NoGraduation #GoodbyeTeachers #ByeByeFriends @NYGovCuomo @DickGottfried @NaderSayegh @CarlHeastie @SenatorASC pic.twitter.com/YBbUbyVOM9
— JustJackie (@Jackie19021587) September 10, 2019
Other parents shared updates as they started to home-school their children, with one anti-vaxxer stating they had ‘no choice’ but do so.
The new law came about following one of the worst measles outbreaks in recent New York history, during which there were over 1,000 reported cases.
State health officials told Buzzfeed News 26,217 unvaccinated New York children in public schools, private schools, parochial schools, daycare centres and pre-kindergarten programs claimed religious exemptions during the 2017 – 2018 school year.
The new law ‘prohibits a school from permitting any child to be admitted to such school, or to attend such school, in excess of 14 days without sufficient evidence that the child has received all age-appropriate required vaccinations’.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence showing vaccines work and do not cause disorders such as autism but many anti-vaxxers still cite these claims as an excuse not to vaccinate.
According to the Independent, the outbreak which led to the change in law is starting to ease as Mayor Bill de Blasio declared an end to the measles outbreak in New York City, its epicentre, earlier this month.
Good. New York is undergoing the worst measles outbreak in years. No point in exposing unvaccinated kids—or in having them expose others. Why turn an outbreak into an epidemic? https://t.co/hHqyngz6Y2
— Rhysdux (@Rhysdux) September 21, 2019
However, health officials warned the highly contagious disease could easily spread again as students returned to school.
After signing the bill in June, Governor Cuomo said:
I understand freedom of religion. We all do. We respect it. I’ve heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.
Though the two week vaccination window has now come to a close, students would be allowed back to school if they get vaccinated.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.