NY eliminates religious exemption to vaccine mandates


"We are now countering not only the vector of the measles virus, but we're countering the vector of the anti-vaxers, and that message - that insidious message - is just as challenging as the most contagious virus on the face of the earth", said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Since September, New York state has recorded 854 measles cases, particularly in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, where some parents believe vaccines violate Jewish law.

Politicians in Albany, the state capital, narrowly voted to end the religious exemptions on Thursday.

California passed a bill in 2015 that requires school children to be immunized against 10 different diseases, including measles.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature approved the measure, which also eliminates other nonmedical exemptions for schoolchildren across the state.

The issue is hotly contested and debate around it has often been emotional, pitting cries that religious freedom is being curtailed against warnings that public health is being endangered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that the number of new measles cases this year has exceeded 1,000, the highest count in 27 years. "If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children. then you're the one choosing not to send your children to school". So much so that he told the AP that the family may consider moving from the state.

The Assembly and Senate passed the legislation hours apart in the same week that the U.S.

"I'm old enough to have been around when polio was a real threat", said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan. "Your personal opinions, which may be based on junk science, do not trump the greater good".

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he supports eliminating the exemption.

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Similar exemptions are allowed in 46 states.

Cuomo said on Wednesday that public health, and the need to protect those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons - those who are still covered under the exception, supersedes concerns over religious freedom.

Gottfried voted against the bill on the Assembly floor, saying he does not believe the measles outbreak warrants approving a bill that he said interferes with the First Amendment and freedom of religion.

Two areas of NY have the highest numbers of measles cases out of every outbreak in the country, the CDC numbers show. There, he noted, there have already been more than 266 confirmed measles cases, including 16 hospitalizations.

Of New York's measles cases, 74 percent have come from the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, home to a large ultra-Orthodox population.

California removed personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015, after a measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened 147 people and spread across the US and into Canada.

The bill made California the third state after MS and West Virginia to pass such a law, according to the LA Times.

"In the vast majority of our state, those religious exemptions do not affect the herd immunity levels and only interfere with a person's genuinely held religious belief", said Goodell, who added he is not opposed to vaccinations.



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