An estimated 11,000 migrant children have entered New York City schools since the summer, many of them without the required vaccinations. Under New York State Law, all students entering schools must be vaccinated, with the exception of students with a medical exemption. All students either attending or entering public, private, or parochial school in New York State are required to be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, varicella (chicken pox) and meningococcal.
Families must either present proof of their child’s up-to-date vaccinations, or provide a valid medical exemption. Families are given 14 days of their child’s first day of school to do so. In order to attend or remain in school, children who are unvaccinated or overdue must receive at least the first dose of all required vaccines within the first 14 days, and receive subsequent vaccines in the series within a 14-day period of when they are due to complete the immunization series, as stated by the New York Department of Health.
On January 25, 2023, The Simon Baruch Middle School in Gramercy Park reported a chickenpox case, according to a notice from the principal stating that students not vaccinated for varicella could not attend school. A parent at the school said after the announcement, five migrant children were absent for a few days from the class in question.
One mother, Carolina Chicaisa, who arrived in New York City on January 8, 2023 from Ecuador said Jareth, her 8-year-old-son, has been attending third grade at PS 111 in Hell’s Kitchen since last week without a record of his vaccinations.
“I had proof of them from Ecuador, but I lost them in the jungle on our way here,” Chicaisa said.
She said she took Jareth for blood tests to prove he was vaccinated and was waiting for the results to show to the school, which has been overwhelmed with migrant students. He is allowed to attend class until they get the proof.
Department of Education rules say schools cannot refuse entry to classes for children living in temporary housing, including asylum seekers, even if they can’t immediately show vaccination or academic records.
According to Department of Health spokesman, Patrick Gallahue, “Both DOE and DOH work closely with families to ensure they have access to immunizations services and are in compliance with the school requirements to prevent outbreaks.”
New York City has spent more than $60 million this year to help thousands of new migrant students who require substantial assistance — exacerbating the need for basic health care, bilingual education and mental health services throughout the city's public education system. New York City's Independent Budget Office estimates that it will cost the city $8,200 annually to educate each student from asylum-seeking families.
Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president of Ambulatory Care and Population Health at New York City Health and Hospitals, said, “I did not expect this proportion of children to come in that are absolutely unvaccinated. We have the opportunity to really do better by them.”
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