New York State Department of Health commissioner declares poliovirus 'an imminent threat to public health' to expand resources for local health departments' vaccination efforts
√ Department of Health continues to monitor potential spread, work with local health officials and community partners to increase childhood vaccination rates
√ Read the commissioner's declaration letter
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced additional steps New York is taking to address evidence of circulating poliovirus in this state, including an official declaration to further support local health departments in driving immunizations.
Earlier Wednesday, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett declared poliovirus an imminent threat to public health in New York, thereby expanding the availability of funding and resources to support local health departments in establishing immunization clinics, deploying vaccine to health care partners, and conducting outreach to unvaccinated and undervaccinated New Yorkers to increase immunization rates – particularly in the areas affected by the virus and among children.
"From day one, we've taken an aggressive public health approach to combat the spread of polio and ensure New Yorkers are protected," Hochul said. "This declaration will bolster our ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers against paralytic disease, prevent spread, and support our public health partners."
Bassett said, "Working daily with local county health departments, our partners at CDC, and trusted leaders, the department is working effectively to increase childhood and community vaccination rates in counties where the virus has been detected. Thanks to long-established school immunization requirements, the vast majority of adults, and most children, are fully vaccinated against polio. Our focus remains on ensuring the on-time administration of polio vaccination among young children and catching kids and adults up who are unimmunized and underimmunized in the affected areas. That work continues at full force."
The declaration enables localities to continue to work closely with the State Department of Health's Office of Public Health Practice to claim reimbursement for these public health activities. The commissioner's declaration covers poliovirus response activities undertaken from July 21 through Dec. 31.
Hochul’s team said, “Working with the State Department of Health, local health departments continue to actively respond to polio in New York state through wastewater monitoring, clinical surveillance, and vaccine administration for unimmunized and underimmunized New Yorkers. These departments are also conducting education and outreach in communities where the virus has been detected, to spread greater awareness and encourage vaccination, particularly to parents and guardians of young children.
“Following the identification of a case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated individual in Rockland County, the State Health Department launched wastewater surveillance, a tool to check for signs of the virus in sewage water in communities. Sequence analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since found repeated evidence of poliovirus detected in samples collected from Rockland County, Orange County and Sullivan County, as well as detected in samples collected from New York City and Nassau County.
“New York State has focused its efforts in areas where the threat is concentrated, which includes where there is repeated detection, and where there is a relatively low percentage of children that have completed their three-dose polio regimen by the age of 2. These areas include Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties.”
Earlier this month, Hochul declared a state disaster emergency to tackle any potential spread and threat to public health. The declaration increased the availability of resources to help protect New Yorkers against paralytic disease.
Previously, Hochul issued an executive order, which immediately expanded the network of polio vaccine administrators by allowing emergency medical services workers, midwives and pharmacists to administer vaccines, and authorize physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient-specific standing orders for polio vaccines.
The governor’s team said, “Issued in July, this executive order also requires health care providers to send polio immunization data to the State Department of Health through the New York State Immunization Information System, enabling the agency and local health departments to focus vaccination activities where they are needed most and providing them yet another datapoint to understand the level of protection against polio in communities.
“Polio vaccination has long been part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory committee on immunization practices recommended immunization schedule and New York state's requirements to attend school. Most adults and many children in New York state are already vaccinated.
“Polio vaccines provide durable protection, and the inactivated polio vaccine – the only vaccine available in the U.S. – protects 99% to 100% of people against disease who receive all recommended doses. From July 21 to Sept. 25, approximately 26,000 polio vaccine doses have been administered to children 18 years and younger in Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Nassau counties – a 26% increase compared to the same time period in 2021.
“Parents and guardians with children 17 years of age or younger who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their polio immunizations should immediately make sure their children get up to date with all recommended doses. This is particularly urgent if they live, work, attend school, or have frequent social interactions with communities where poliovirus has been repeatedly detected in wastewater, which includes Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties.
“Unvaccinated or undervaccinated New Yorkers who live or work in areas with repeated poliovirus detection and are at increased risk of exposure should make sure to get all recommended doses.
“New York adults outside of these areas who are unvaccinated, unsure of their vaccination status, or not up to date with vaccinations should consult with a health care provider. If vaccination is recommended and a provider does not have doses on hand, New Yorkers should contact their local health department.
“Polio is a serious, life-threatening disease that affects the nervous system and can cause muscle weakness, paralysis or death. Polio is very contagious and can be spread by someone even if they aren't sick or experiencing symptoms, which range from mild flu-like symptoms to paralysis, permanent disability, and death.”
Learn more about polio, polio immunization, polio vaccination rates for children by the age of 2 by county, by ZIP code, and the latest wastewater surveillance results.