In June of 2019, more than 26,000 kids were at risk of being pulled from schools across New York because they could no longer claim religious exemption when it came to vaccines.
Those families were forced to make a decision.
With the current COVID-19 vaccine push, a Central New York mom is looking to move out of state so her kids can attend school in-person.
Like any parent, Nichole Hosein wants more than anything to keep her kids safe.
"It's incredibly difficult to get a medical exemption in New York," said Hosein, now a mother of three.
Around seven years ago, while living in Canada, she followed doctors' orders and had her firstborn son, Noah, vaccinated.
"Within three hours, we were in the hospital. His fever was 105.8, eyes rolling, back of his head. Within two days, after the fever broke ... he couldn't talk," recalled Hosein.
She says her son was diagnosed with autism, speech impairment and celiac disease. A short time later, her family emigrated to the United States, where Noah was granted a medical vaccine exemption.
What You Need To Know
- 26,000 New York students faced removal from schools in 2019
- In June 2019, New York state passed a bill no longer allowing religious exemptions for vaccinations in schools
- Around 1,200 students in Central New York were affected
- New York has yet to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school
"At the federal level, he carries an exemption, but in New York, they won't take it because it happened in a different country," Hosein said.
Hosein also has two little girls. She refuses to vaccinate them.
"I started looking into the vaccine at what caused the reaction ... and some of that stuff is really against my faith. So that's why religiously, I'm never vaccinating my kids again," she noted.
Since 2003, nine CDC-funded studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.
In June 2019, after a horrible measles outbreak across the U.S., New York state repealed religious exemptions, meaning if students did not get all required vaccinations, they would not be allowed to attend schools — public, private and charter.
"So, my girls are never allowed to go to school because they are not vaccinated," said Hosein.
According to a July 2019 report from the New York State Health Foundation, around 1,200 students in Central New York lost their religious exemptions.
"I feel like I've lost a lot of faith in New York over time," she added.
Without full authorization from the FDA for any of the COVID-19 vaccines, New York has not added it to its list of required vaccinations to attend school.
Though her son does get therapy assistance from the East Syracuse Minoa school district, her daughters are fully homeschooled. Even with COVID making school go virtual, she says her kids were still not allowed to participate, unless they were fully vaccinated.
"It's hard living here with so many restrictions on the kids," she explained. "In Florida, in many states, if you have two parents with autoimmune disease, you don't vaccinate those children. My husband and I both have autoimmune conditions."
The COVID-19 vaccine has been given emergency authorization by the FDA, but Hosein says it goes against her Muslim beliefs. She says it adds to her fear that, while living in New York, even more doors will close for her young children.
"We drove down to Florida in December, and we hope to move there because we want our kids to go to school," she admitted.
As her children, ages 4, 6 and 8, enjoy summer, their next time on a New York school bus remains uncertain.