For the first time in more than a decade, New York City will require vaccination for all public schoolchildren. Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement on Friday, announcing that he would sign a bill into law that will require vaccine coverage of 95 percent for schoolchildren.
On Tuesday, over 1,500 people gathered at City Hall to protest against Mayor de Blasio’s plan to roll out the law, shouting “No means no,” and “It’s a crime, yes means yes.” About 100 people, the protesters said, were undercover officers from the NYPD (some of whom kept a sharp eye on the crowd with earpieces) and led to “thuggery” once the protest began, picking up arrests when one woman ignored the officers’ orders to cease her shouting. One man was pepper-sprayed after accusing a police officer of racial profiling.
And yet the same day the new law was enacted, a public opinion poll conducted for City University of New York’s School of Public Health found that 82 percent of New Yorkers supported the plan.
Out of 59,122 eligible voters, 81 percent said they were in favor of the bill. The legislation, which will not take effect until next year, will require students entering kindergarten or first grade in 2019, ninth grade for high school seniors in 2022, and 10th grade for students in grades 12 through 14 in 2025.
(Currently, about 80 percent of New York City children ages 8 to 19 are fully vaccinated and registered, according to the city’s Department of Health.)
An editorial in The New York Times noted that the figures were “significantly higher than those across the country”: just under 50 percent in 2014, up from just under 40 percent in 2002. More people are sticking to childhood immunizations, though, and there were so few measles cases in the United States this year that the federal Centers for Disease Control did not issue a travel advisory warning parents not to bring their children to the country.
Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general who currently serves as the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasized that the new legislation was intended to reduce the risk of outbreaks and to protect not only children but also adults who “potentially become exposed to vaccines from unimmunized individuals,” including health care workers.
The police action on Tuesday — including the pepper spray — was “way out of line,” the protesters said. “We’re not a rogue mob,” said one man who had been charged. “We’re the majority of New Yorkers who are in favor of this and opposed to this.”