Gov. Hochul declares polio state of emergency in New York to boost vaccinations
Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared a polio-related state disaster emergency in an effort to ramp up vaccinations across New York.
The disaster emergency, which Hochul issued via executive order Friday morning, will allow EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer polio vaccines, she said in a press release.
It will also require health care providers to upload polio vaccination data to the state Department of Health’s immunization database, which will help officials target outreach to undervaccinated areas, the release said.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement Friday. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real.”
“Polio immunization is safe and effective — protecting nearly all people against disease who receive the recommended doses,” she added. “If you are unsure of your families’ vaccination status, contact a healthcare provider, clinic or local county health department to make sure you and your loved ones receive all recommended doses.”
Health officials began testing wastewater across the state for poliovirus after a Rockland County resident contracted the disease in July.
As of Friday, the health department had found poliovirus in wastewater samples collected from Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Nassau counties, as well as New York City, according to the release.
While approximately 70% of people who contract polio do not experience symptoms, the disease can be “dangerous, debilitating and life-threatening,” the release noted.
A small percentage of cases result in permanent paralysis, and a portion of those cases lead to death, the release added.
“All New Yorkers who are unvaccinated, including children by 2 months of age, those who are pregnant, and people who have not completed their polio vaccine series previously, should get immunized right away,” the release said.
“Unvaccinated New Yorkers or those not up to date with immunizations who live, work, go to school in, or visit Rockland County, Orange County, New York City, Sullivan County, and Nassau County are at the highest risk of contracting paralytic disease,” it went on to say.