Unvaccinated students worry about school year as NY law ends religious exemptions

Posted: Updated:

Some parents and students are nervous about the start of the new school year after a new state law was passed ending religious exemptions for vaccines.

The Messina kids from Sayville are very involved in their high school sports programs -- playing varsity football and lacrosse. But there could be some difficult decisions coming up.

The family doesn't believe in vaccinations and had a religious exemption. But the state Legislature repealed that exemption in June after a measles outbreak. Other families sued but lost. That means vaccinations are now required, unless you're medically exempt.

"We have very significant data that shows without vaccinations, many people get sick and die. It's that simple," says Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk health commissioner.

Jordan Messina, 15, says she is worried. She says if she doesn't get vaccinated, she won't be allowed in school, which she says could jeopardize her future.

Other lawsuits are being filed on behalf of families in Nassau, Suffolk and other parts of the state.

According to the attorney filing the suits, they're based on rights granted in the New York Constitution -- the right to free exercise of religion and the right to a free public education.

Rita Palma from the New York chapter of Children's Health Defense says anti-vaccine groups are hoping for an injunction from a judge before school starts.

"If we get the stay granted, the injunction granted, then life goes back to normal until the case runs its course through the courts," says Palma.

If that doesn't happen, families like the Messinas will have to decide -- whether to vaccinate -- or home-school their kids.

"I'm hoping that something comes through. I'm hoping that people come to their senses. I'm hoping people are outraged," says Tracy Messina.

An attorney says there are about 26,000 students who claimed the religious exemption last year. Of those, 3,500 live in Nassau and Suffolk.

  • SlideshowsGalleriesMore>>

  • Congress holds public hearings in impeachment inquiry

    Congress holds public hearings in impeachment inquiry

    Photos from the public congressional hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and his administration's dealings with Ukraine.
    Photos from the public congressional hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and his administration's dealings with Ukraine.
  • Dog Day Fridays for Nov. 15

    Dog Day Fridays for Nov. 15

    Friday, November 15 2019 10:28 AM EST2019-11-15 15:28:42 GMT
    This week's dogs are up for adoption at Ruff House Rescue. The shelter is located in Oceanside. Their phone number is 516-306-4998.This week's dogs are up for adoption at Ruff House Rescue. The shelter is located in Oceanside. Their phone number is 516-306-4998.
    This week's dogs are up for adoption at Ruff House Rescue. The shelter is located in Oceanside. Their phone number is 516-306-4998.This week's dogs are up for adoption at Ruff House Rescue. The shelter is located in Oceanside. Their phone number is 516-306-4998.
    This week's dogs are up for adoption at Ruff House Rescue. The shelter is located in Oceanside. Their phone number is 516-306-4998.
    This week's dogs are up for adoption at Ruff House Rescue. The shelter is located in Oceanside. Their phone number is 516-306-4998.
  • Thanksgiving Day 2019 Shopping Guide

    Thanksgiving Day 2019 Shopping Guide

    If you are looking to start your holiday shopping before the turkey is out of the oven, here are stores that will be opened for Thanksgiving.
    If you are looking to start your holiday shopping before the turkey is out of the oven, here are stores that will be opened for Thanksgiving. 
sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."