The University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health are among the institutions partnering with the drug company Pfizer and the immunotherapy company BioNTech to test a group of COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

With all of the talk about a coronavirus vaccine, a concerning trend has taken hold in the United States and around the world: children are missing their routine visits for vaccination. The rates of vaccination are dropping sharply, but the experts hope that's a short-term trend that will soon be reversed. Doctors say a large factor is parents' fear of leaving the house with their kids, and in particular, fear of going to the hospital or doctors’ offices. But the medical community is sending an urgent signal: don't miss vaccination.

Our guests discuss the issues, and answer your questions about medical visits for children during the pandemic. Our guests:

  • Dr. Stephen Cook, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and medical director at the New York State Department of Health
  • Dr. Elizabeth Murray, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong
  • Dr. Laura Jean Shipley, M.D., associate medical director for Accountable Health Partners, and vice chair for behavioral and population health in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Dr. David Topa, M.D., pediatrician at Pittsford Pediatric Associates

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said she “could not be silent” on potential state laws that would mandate the HPV vaccine for children born after 2009 and sex education for all public school students.

Warren said she’s OK with traditional vaccines like those that prevent measles and mumps. But as a mother of a 9-year-old, she said a proposed state law that would require the HPV vaccine is a step too far. 

HPV is a common virus spread through intimate contact that can lead to certain types of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

A Yates County family whose son was barred from school after being denied a medical exemption for vaccines was back in court Friday, arguing that he should be allowed back in school permanently.

Carl Schwartz said his son, Thorn, has severe reactions to vaccines. He said the family’s doctor agrees, and Thorn has not been vaccinated in almost a decade.

Still, Carl said no doctor has found a causal link between Thorn’s reactions and a vaccine.

This year brought a significant shift in New York state policy around vaccines.

The state eliminated religious exemptions to vaccines, and children are now required to be vaccinated to attend school unless they have a medical exemption form signed by a doctor.

The move came on the heels of some of the largest measles outbreaks in the state since record keeping began, including a cluster in Monroe County that sickened seven children.

Brett Dahlberg reported throughout the year on local cases of vaccine-preventable diseases and the efforts to increase immunization rates in the Rochester area and around the Finger Lakes.

Paul Vernon / AP

A state appeals court in Seneca County has upheld New York’s elimination of religious exemptions to vaccine requirements.

The ruling from State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Doyle rejected claims that eliminating the exemptions was an unconstitutional infringement on religious rights.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle is sponsoring two bills that he said will increase the number of children who get vaccinated against preventable diseases. 

The Vaccinate All Children Act would block some federal funding for states that allow religious exemptions to vaccines.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

“We’ve been inundated,” Kristen Wagner said as she unpacked vaccines inside the Yates County public health offices in Penn Yan.

“We’re trying the best that we can,” she said, continuing to set cartons of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on top of a tray that was already too full to fit any more.

Wagner and her colleague Chelsea Bailey were just back from a trip to Mennonite homes scattered across the largely rural county.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and public health commissioner Michael Mendoza on Wednesday urged families to get their children vaccinated in time for the school year and announced extended hours at the county’s immunization clinic.

New York State is joining a growing list of states that have banned religious exemptions for vaccines. And while the state passed the ban this year, most of the delegation representing the Rochester and Finger Lakes area voted to save religious exemptions.

Many local doctors have expressed their frustration about that. They join us to discuss the state of vaccines. Our guests:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Murray, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital
  • Dr. Steve Cook, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital
  • Dr. Michael Mendoza, M.D., Monroe County Public Health Commissioner