On Friday, New York declared a state of emergency to increase polio vaccinations.
As evidence mounts that the once-rare virus is spreading in the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an executive order expanding the state’s network of vaccination administrators to include EMS workers, midwives, and pharmacists.
So far, just one case of paralytic polio has been reported in Rockland County, but wastewater tests from the city and nearby suburbs indicate that the infection is spreading throughout the region.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement.
“If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all,” Bassett added.
Hochul’s ruling empowers EMS personnel, midwives, and pharmacists to vaccinate patients against the disease and physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient-specific vaccine standing orders.
In addition, healthcare practitioners will be forced to provide polio immunization data to the state Department of Health for authorities to better track locations where vaccination efforts are most needed.
In recent months, health officials have been monitoring sewage samples across the state, and the virus has been identified in Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan Counties, as well as the five boroughs and, most recently, Nassau County.
The outbreak triggered a renewed drive to get New Yorkers immunized against the devastating disease, which was nearly eradicated in the United States in the late 1970s thanks to extensive vaccines.
Before the Rockland resident’s illness, the United States had gone nearly a decade without documenting a single incidence of polio.