Guv signs bill ending religious vaccine exemptions

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Late Thursday afternoon June 13, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz’s bill banning religious exemptions for vaccinations.

Now New York joins a short list of states, including California, West Virginia, Mississippi and Arizona, that have made it illegal to exempt children from school vaccination requirements for religious reasons.

“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe,” Cuomo said. “While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health. By signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”

Governor Cuomo signed legislation banning religious exemptions for vaccinations, such as for measles.

The disease was deemed eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 but has returned in communities with low vaccination rates. The push for the legislation came in response to recent measles outbreaks in Brooklyn and Rockland County. 

Both outbreaks occurred in predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities that have been reluctant to vaccinate their children, in part due to “anti-vaxxer” propaganda claiming the vaccines cause autism and are made from aborted fetal cells, according to The New York Times.

As of June 10, there were 588 confirmed measles cases in New York City and as of June 13, there were 336 confirmed cases in other parts of the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, for people with uncompromised immune systems, the measles is a respiratory disease that can cause fever and a rash — though more serious complications, like pneumonia, brain swelling and deafness, can occur. In some instances, however, the disease can be deadly. Those most at risk for death and complications are children under age 5, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

“Today, New York is sending a strong message to people across our state that vaccines are safe and effective,” Hoylman said.

“We’re putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immunocompromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can’t be vaccinated through no fault of their own.”

Another vaccination-related bill being considered, introduced by state Senator Liz Krueger, would allow teens as young as 14 to receive vaccinations without parental permission.

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