MAYVILLE – Vaccine hesitancy remains a problem at both the local and national levels.
And it’s not just the COVID-19 vaccine.
During the recent Chatauqua County Health Board meeting, board members discussed the need for a vaccine for things like polio and monkeypox.
In Rockland County, there has been one confirmed case of polio. Sewage monitoring showed polio in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Nassau counties as well as New York City.
“They established evidence that the unvaccinated Rockland County individual, who had paralytic polio, contracted the virus through local, not overseas and not international transmission.” explained Kristen Schuyler, director of public health. “One way to prevent that is to get vaccinated.”
Schuyler said that since the discovery of polio in the state, her office has received calls from adults wanting to get vaccinated. “Currently, there is no recommendation for this polio, so advocates are not paying for it,” She said.
Health Board Member Dr Tariq Khan said he had spoken to the school principal about school-age students who had not been vaccinated. There are a large number of families who are homeschooled because the children have been partially or not vaccinated. The number is amazing.” He said, not specifying the number of students or the school leader.
According to the state health department’s website, vaccinations for polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, varicella (chickenpox), measles, mumps, and rubella are all required for children attending daycare and from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in New York State. This includes all public, private and religious schools. The medical exemption is allowed when the child has a medical condition that prevents him from receiving the vaccination. There are no non-medical exceptions to the state’s school vaccination requirements.
Health Board Chair Dr Lillian Nye has expressed concern that there may be parents who have not had their children’s vaccinations during COVID and need to be compensated before they enroll in school. She noted how the legislature rejected a $75,000 grant earlier this year that was to be used to educate parents and others about the importance of vaccines.
Khan said he believes that parents who want to vaccinate their children do so; He’s worried about parents who don’t allow their children to get vaccinations.
District physician Dr. Robert Burke shared a story about someone he knew in college whose parents wouldn’t allow him to be vaccinated when he was younger. While in college, the young man went on an expeditions trip to Mexico. “He’s back on crutches, paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life,” He said.
Burke said it’s important for parents to understand the impact of their decision on their children’s lives. “These parents think they’re really smart now. They forget when a kid is 17, 18, 19, and he’s on the move and goes on a missionary or some sort of trip travels somewhere and comes back with a ‘gift that keeps on giving.’ That’s what They don’t understand it,” He said.
Schuyler said there are sections of the Amish population that will allow their children to be vaccinated but that some older residents still refuse to do so.
Schuyler said their office has received a limited supply of the monkeypox vaccine. She said they are reaching out to people at high risk, to see if they want to. This includes Jamestown Community College and New York University Fredonia.
According to the CDC website, data shows that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the current monkeypox outbreak. However, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who has been in close contact with someone with monkeypox is at risk.
When someone gets monkeypox, Schuyler said, it can spread through close contact, bedding, cloths, and towels. “It is important for people to ask their sexual partners if they have a rash or have any symptoms and to be aware of who they are close to,” She said.
The county has a number of people who have been tested for monkeypox, but at this point, there are no positive cases in the county.
Khan noted that there is not enough vaccine for everyone at this time. “I think we’re all holding our collective breath and hoping that monkeypox won’t get out of hand until we have an adequate supply of the vaccine,” He said.
Schuyler noted that there is still a lot of mistrust among certain segments of the population when it comes to a vaccine.
She shared a story about a conversation she had with someone who said he didn’t trust health officials, the government, or what was being reported. “We have a lot of work to do and not just us. It has to come from trusted healthcare providers and leaders who are really joining the bandwagon to help us stop this,” Schuyler said.
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