A Baldwin-based midwife has been fined over $300,000 by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) for falsifying vaccine records for nearly 1,500 students over a four-year period.
Rikki Lee Burtoff, a licensed midwife, admitted to fabricating vaccine records for students in schools across Long Island in order to bypass vaccine requirements. She provided fake immunization certificates to parents, charging $500 for this service.
This allowed unvaccinated or under-vaccinated students to attend schools and child care centers without proper vaccines against diseases like measles and pertussis.
Burtoff had been under investigation since 2021 when inconsistencies were noticed in vaccine records she had filed. The scope of her fraud scheme soon became clear through the NYSDOH investigation.
Details of the Violations
On January 17th, 2023, the NYSDOH announced the findings of their investigation and the actions being taken against Burtoff. Specifically:
- Burtoff admitted to falsifying immunization records for 1,507 students over 4 years
- The fake records involved schools or centers across Nassau County and New York City
- She charged parents $500 per falsified record
- Her actions violated public health law and she was fined $200 per incident, totaling $306,000
The NYSDOH has referred the case to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct for further review and action against Burtoff’s license.
Impacts and Reactions
Public health experts reacted with concern over the potential health impacts of Burtoff’s fraud:
- Unvaccinated students put themselves and others at heightened risk for infectious diseases
- Her actions undermine trust in health providers and vaccine reporting accuracy
School officials also expressed disappointment and frustration:
- Significant time and effort spent to validate student vaccine records
- Concerns over health risks created within their school communities
Meanwhile, some parents defended Burtoff, arguing that:
- They have rights to vaccine exemptions
- Burtoff helped families exercise personal belief exemptions
The NYSDOH provided the following guidance to potentially impacted families and schools:
|You had vaccine records filed by Burtoff
|Contact your school or child care center to provide an updated immunization record certified by a different provider
|You operate a facility where Burtoff filed records
|Notify potentially impacted students/families and request updated immunization records
Additionally, facilities were advised to contact the NYSDOH with any specific questions or concerns.
The case now goes to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct for further investigation into disciplinary actions. Potential outcomes include fines, probation terms, or even suspension of Burtoff’s medical license.
Rikki Lee Burtoff’s falsification of vaccine records for nearly 1,500 students demonstrates a serious violation of public health law and ethics around immunization standards. Her case will serve as a stern warning to other providers considering fraudulent actions that undermine vaccine reporting or requirements. Moving forward, schools and parents must now work diligently to ensure accurate student vaccine records so that risks from preventable diseases remain minimized.
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