New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) declared a “disaster” in the state on Friday due to the spread of polio through wastewater. The emergency declaration allows a larger group of medical personnel to administer polio vaccines and requires providers to send immunization data to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said in response to Hochul’s order. She continued: “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.”
The state’s polio immunization drive will be bolstered by the New York State Immunization Information System, which will collect data on which communities need access to vaccines the most.
The vaccination rate against polio among 2-year-old children in New York is 79 percent and “significantly less than that in several counties and zip codes,” according to the governor’s office. Polio vaccines will now be able to be distributed by first responders, midwives, and pharmacists.
NYSDOH wastewater surveillance found poliovirus in stool samples collected in Rockland County, Orange County, Sullivan County, New York City and Nassau County, all of which are clustered in the southeast of the state. The surveillance was triggered by the detection of paralytic polio in a Rockland County resident who was unvaccinated. The state disaster will last until Oct. 9 unless lengthened by Hochul.