Ceili McNicholas was told not to return to Long Island’s Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School after her mother Jamie refused to let her receive the T-Dap booster, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
The decision to skip the booster wasn’t solely Jamie’s idea – her daughter’s pediatrician won’t administer the shot because it is labeled for children ages 10 and over. Ceili is only 8.
“If we give that T-Dap vaccination between 7 and 10, we are using it off label. And it’s not licensed for usage.. So if we can’t use it, then we are the ones going to be held liable,” Long Island pediatrician Dr. Mary Renna told CBS New York.
Jamie said Ceili is among a small percentage of children who got all their vaccinations for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, under the age of 4. The state recently changed their immunization regulations, and now they are requiring a booster shot for those kids.
“I got a call from the school in September saying she needed another vaccine in order to be compliant with this new regulation,” Jamie said.
Doctors interviewed by CBS pointed out a conflict between government agencies: The FDA approves the T-Dap booster for ages 10 and over, but the state follows CDC guidelines, which recommends the booster for ages 7 through 10.
Jamie received a letter from the school that said Ceili would not be allowed to return until she had the booster. Monday, November 17, was her deadline.
“We put her on the bus as usual,” Jamie said. But Ceili was then told her mom would have to pick her up, CBS reported.
“The assistant principal took me to the parking lot and took me to the car,” Ceili said.
The school district said it has no choice and is only enforcing regulations set by the state:
In a statement, the Miller Place School District said “We appreciate the family’s frustration. The Miller Place School District is required and obligated to follow all of the rules and regulations of the State of New York on all matters including children’s health.
Questions and concerns about this issue should be raised with the New York State Department of Education and the Suffolk County Department of Health.”
So, the school district said it is following state education guidelines. The New York State Education Department said it is following the guidelines of state health officials. And … the state Health Department said its decisions are based on CDC recommendations.
Is anyone else confused?
And should we really trust the CDC, anyway?
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Jamie said she isn’t giving in:
The only way that she will be back in school before age 10 is if the state makes an exception for my daughter and the other kids that are faced with the same situation, because I’m not getting her that shot.
The manufacturer put a guideline on things for a reason. I don’t feel that because there is no vaccine available, just giving them the ones for the older kids — it’s not the answer.
Jamie has begun to homeschool Ceili and has started an online petition to get her daughter back into school. She said her daughter misses school and her teacher.
“It breaks your heart,” Jamie said. “But do I sacrifice her health, possibly, just to get her into that building?”
Surely there are other students who attend Ceili’s school who are not vaccinated. New York allows two vaccination exemptions:
Section 2164 of the Public Health Law permits the following two exemptions to this mandatory immunization requirement:
(1) If the parent objects to the immunization because the parent holds genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the requirement that the child be immunized; or
(2) If a New York State licensed physician certifies that such immunization may be detrimental to the child’s health.
Here are the state’s guidelines for medical exemptions:
If you are seeking a medical exemption, you must provide a letter from a New York State licensed physician certifying that one or more of the required immunizations are detrimental to your child’s health. The letter should specify which immunizations may be harmful to your child and for how long the immunization(s) would be detrimental. Your school will forward documentation in support of a medical exemption to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for review.
Perhaps it is time for the parents of impacted children to start exploring those options, or opt to homeschool like Jamie.