Some 26,000 children won’t be going back to class on the first day of New York State public schools because their parents chose not to vaccinate them. This summer, state lawmakers banned religious exemptions as a reason for not getting children vaccinated.

Officials from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced the end of the measles outbreak that started in April. However, fears of the announcement have complicated things when it comes to vaccinating children as the school year gets underway.

According to a survey conducted by NBC and The Wall Street Journal, 25 percent of respondents said parents should be allowed to choose if and when to vaccinate their kids. Over 70 percent of adults think parents should be required to vaccinate their children. Currently, all 50 states require children to be vaccinated in order to attend school but can

opt out for religious or medical reasons.

When it comes to African Americans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health says that African American adults are less likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have received the flu vaccine in the past year or to have ever received the pneumonia vaccine. Just under 92 percent of Black adolescents age 13 to 17 received the measles vaccine in 2017.

Just under 65 percent of Black children aged 19 to 35 months were fully immunized in 2016 compared to 72 percent of white children.

As thousands of children will not be permitted to go to school this week because they are not vaccinated, parents are scrambling to look for alternatives. Homeschooling is becoming a popular choice for parents who say they won’t give in to the state’s new ban.

“Recently, I have been receiving calls from parents who are desperate to find a school program for their children because they are not able to return to their school,” said Lisa J. Scott, founder and director of The Art of Words, a literacy based program for children aged 3 to 17. “One of the major issues that parents have indicated to me is that there are very few full-day programs available which are cost effective.”

Scott added that some parents have indicated to her that they may be forced to either leave their children with other family members, leave their child home alone or, find a way to homeschool their children directly.

This past April’s measles outbreak mostly took place in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, where there was a large number of residents who did not vaccinate their children. Health officials say they were now able to call an end to the health emergency because 42 days have passed since the last infected person with measles was detected in affected areas.

“Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the face of the earth,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “There may no longer be local transmission of measles in New York City, but the threat remains given other outbreaks in the U.S. and around the world. Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well immunized city.”

In an effort to remind parents about the ban, the Health Department recently launched a new ad campaign. The campaign “Don’t Hesitate. Vaccinate!” reminds parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated on time.

News of the end of the outbreak has put the issues of childhood vaccinations back in the spotlight. Barbot says that there is still a threat and parents should still get their children vaccinated.

“Our best defense against renewed transmission is having a well immunized city. Vaccination coverage has increased significantly since the emergency order, which has been supported by community-led efforts,” Barbot said. “We are grateful to the New Yorkers who shared the truth about vaccines and protected the health of their friends and neighbors through this outbreak.”

New York is now the fifth state in the nation to ban religious and personal-belief exemptions for vaccines. The others are California, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia. Parents can still opt out of getting their children vaccinated for medical reasons.

A debate over the years that seems to keep circling back whenever the issue of vaccinations comes up is whether the toxins in a vaccine like the MMR can cause autism. Vaccine advocates say that there is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism and results from a study released earlier this year found that there was no increase in autism when children were vaccinated. Yet, there are thousands of anti-vaccine parents who refuse to believe the data.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the vaccine ingredient thimerosal, an antiseptic and anti fungal agent, is usually of concern.

“Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, as well as no link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD in children,” the CDC said.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center associate professor of clinical emergency medicine Dr. Teresa Smith said in an interview with the AmNews that parents should vaccinate their children. She also said that the positive results that vaccines have on the population outweigh the reasons people choose not to vaccinate.

“Not vaccinating as a reason for fear of autism has been disproven time and time again,” Smith said. “The massaging of the anti vaxxers is incorrect and vaccinations help to save lives. This is a public health issue and you have to protect the public.”

Smith adds that evidence over the last several decades proves the measles vaccine is working with fewer cases that have popped up.

Anti-vaccination groups thrive and get to their audience online, particularly through social media. One of the largest groups is Learn The Risk, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization which says they educate people on the dangers of vaccines. The organization uses stories of children who have died or have serious health issues as a result of getting vaccinated and claims it reaches millions.

“The answer from public health is always the same: time for another vaccine. Another dose, another strain, another booster,” Learn The Risk said in May. “And an endless, circuitous virus chase. But in public health, the question of if there might be a better way to fight disease is unthinkable. They would never seek to understand why most kids get through measles without a hitch and are left with lifelong protection against the disease and more protected too against diseases like cancer, or to find out what is lacking in the immune systems of the few children who don’t.”