Rockland County officials made their way to Albany Monday to show support for a new vaccination law.
County Executive Ed Day, was joined by democratic state lawmakers who are supporting a bipartisan bill that would eliminate a section of state law that exempts parents from vaccinating their children because of religious beliefs. This comes as Oneida County stresses the importance of vaccinating children during "National Infant Immunization Week."
"Unfortunately, in New York State, we have have now experienced one of the worse measles outbreaks since measles was irraticated nearly 20 years ago," David Carlucci, New York State Senator said.
Out of the nearly 700 cases reported in the U.S., over 200 of them have been in Rockland County.
"Of the entire population of the country, we have 29% of the measles cases in the United States of America," Ed Day said.
Local and federal officials are urging parents to vaccinate their children.
"Vaccination is very important, the goal is just to protect children as soon as we can," Rebecca Laporte, Oneida County Public Health Nurse said. "We protect our children in so many other way, we protect them using car seats, we give them healthy foods to eat, we don't just let them eat candy all the time. Immunization is just one important part of how we can protect our children."
Health officials say vaccines are among the most successful public health tools available for preventing disease and death. Vaccines not only protect people who are vaccinated, but protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infecious disease.
"Vaccines are incredibly important to our society," Laporte said. "The important thing with immunization is herd immunity. Herd immunity only works if the vast majority of people are vaccinated, it doesn't work when there are a few or some people vaccinated."
Senator Carlucci says the government needs to do something about it now.
"The CDC is telling us 'hey, we have got to get a handle on these outbreaks or the measles will get a foothold and be a permanent problem with the results being disastrous,'" Carlucci said.
The proposed legislation would eliminate all non-medical exceptions for vaccinations.
"It is necessary for all that are physically able to receive the vaccination do so. this is the only way to protect the health of those who are unable to receive the life saving benefits," Day said.
Local health officials say immunization is a shared responsibility.
"There are people in our communities who can't be vaccinated," Laporte said. "Those who are undergoing chemo therapy treatment, those with compromised immune systems, those with cancer, those people can't be protected, so its up to us as a society to, if we can, be vaccinated to help protect those around us who can't be."
This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week, which highlights the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.
This is also the 25th anniversary of the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program. The VFC program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to parents who might not be able to afford having their children vaccinated. Laporte says there are places in Onieda County that are a part of the VFC program. She says for help finding a local healthcare professional who participayes in the VFC prgram, contact your state health department or visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/vfcprogram/.