No shots, no school, but families find vaccinations hard to get

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “A logistical nightmare,” that is how some medical professionals are describing the last minute rush of families to get their kids vaccinated. Without the vaccinations those students are banned from attending school.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers removed the religious exemptions thousands of families had cited to avoid getting their children vaccinated.

The law, passed in June, included a 14-day grace period to get the shots and now after 14 days have passed, many families are finding the vaccines are out of their reach—whether they had formerly sought the waiver or not.

Rebecca Graves took her son Keing Taylor, 11, to his pediatrician to get vaccinated, but his doctor did not have the meningitis vaccine so they were referred to a clinic, which was also out of the medicine.

Graves recalled a clinician’s frustration, “That she has seen more people in the past three days than three months, and so many people have come in, she has even ran out of her needles.”

When state lawmakers passed the law in June barring the religious exemptions used by families to avoid the mandatory immunizations, the New York Department of Health said there were more than 26,000 children who now have to get up-to-date on a battery of immunizations.

Dr. Steven Lana of Delaware Pediatrics said even older non-immunized students would have to get caught up with the shots needed to enter kindergarten, “They had to have their primary series completed, which means two doses of Mumps-Measles-Rubella, 4 or 5 doses of DTAP, polio.”

Lana said the new law seems to be causing gridlock for those non-immunized students who can’t just suddenly make an appointment to get their shots at the last minute.

Medical offices are generally going to be booked up with their regular patients, which means waiting for days or even months to get the needed immunizations, and that means no school.

Lana said Delaware Pediatrics won’t even accept a new patient who has not been immunized, “You can’t manufacture capacity.  You only have so many appointment slots, you only have so many doctors, and you only have so many hours in a day, and we just can’t accommodate an influx of people.”

But Rebecca Graves said her family has never sought an exemption for any of her three children, and she had made an appointment to get Keing his meningitis shot. The children’s clinic now says he might have to wait until November to return to school.

The third grader said he is disappointed he is missing school, “I like it because I want to learn, not because I want to chill with my friends. I need to learn, not only because I like to learn, but because I need to get a job and have a better future.”

Graves is now desperately searching for a medical office that will vaccinate her son, “I love him, so it is cool to have him around but he is missing a lot and that is not fair to him.”

A State Health Department spokesperson told News 4 in an email, “There is no shortage of the meningitis vaccine.”

The Health Dept. is also contacting the children’s clinic that told Graves they had run out of meningococcal vaccine until November, “to assist them if there are any ordering issues.”

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