Why your child might still be exposed to unvaccinated people at school

Updated: Sep. 12, 2019 at 5:19 PM EDT
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CARTHAGE, N.Y. (WWNY) - New York law, revised in June, got rid of the religious exemption and mandates that kids up to the age of 18 must be vaccinated. But school officials aren't sure what it means for older students or teachers, bus drivers and other staff members.

Up until now, the focus has been on the pupil when it comes to vaccinations. But at a Carthage Board of Education meeting, the attention shifted to staff.

“The discussion was whether or not our employees were required to be immunized as the students are and the answer is no,” said Pete Turner, superintendent of the Carthage Central School District.

Of the 600 people who work for the district, Turner says he doesn’t know how many are immunized.

“It could be the person preparing the lunch. It could be the custodian that's cleaning the room or fixing something in the room. It could be a bus driver that meets the child first thing in the morning, or the last district employee they see in the evening,” he said.

Another question has to do with older students. The law only applies to students age 18 or under. But school districts can have students up to the age of 21 who may have been held back a year, or someone who has special needs.

“The health department regulations do not speak to any others other than folks who are up to the age of 18,” said Stephen Todd, district superintendent of Jeff-Lewis BOCES.

So what does a district like Carthage do? It could pass a staff-specific policy, but most likely with consequences.

"Are you going to dismiss a 30 year quality employee because they didn't get their measles shots? I'm not sure that would be a wise road to travel down. Those same employees have been in our district for many years and if they weren't immunized, you know, we are not tracking any problem back to a student becoming sick because a school employee wasn't immunized," said Turner.

This is something all school districts in the north country may have to consider. We’ve reached out to the state Health Department, which referred us to the state Education Department. We haven’t heard back yet.

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