Parents defend right not to vaccinate in protest outside Education Dept. in Albany

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Hundreds of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children protested in front of the Education Department in Albany Monday.

They held a rally and flocked into the hallways outside a Board of Regents meeting to defend their right not to vaccinate.

As News 12 has previously reported, a new state law ended religious exemptions back in June after a measles outbreak.

The law states that all children must start getting their vaccines within the first two weeks of school and have them completed by the end of the year. If they don't, they will need to be home-schooled.

"Families are traumatized about this," said Rita Palma of the Children's Health Defense. "Families are upside down, they're moving out of state, selling their homes, people are trying to convert to home-schooling."

Giovanni Mazzarelli, a holistic chiropractor in Poughkeepsie, says the law has left him and his wife no choice but to home-school their three children.

Pediatricians say that children need vaccines for the students' health.

"The immunizations that required by state are very, very important to public health," says Michael Grosso of the Huntington Hospital.

The Education Department released a statement to News 12 saying: "The Regents meeting is a public meeting that follows an established agent of items to discuss and is not designed to be a public hearing. The changes made to the immunization law were made to the public health law and the New York State Department of Health is the appropriate agency to promulgate regulations in this area and can only do so within the confines of what the stature allows."

There are at least 26,000 children in New York who previously had obtained religious exemptions to vaccinations.

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