All children in New York, regardless of religious belief, are now required to get their vaccination amid the ongoing measles outbreak across the state.
New Law Bars Vaccine Exemptions For Religious Reasons
A law passed on Thursday, June 13, bans parents from claiming vaccine exemption for religious reasons. Now, children will have to be vaccinated before they can attend school.
The only accepted exemption in the state right now is medical reasons, such as when the child has weakened immuned system.
The new mandate is a response to the worsening measles outbreak in the state of New York and across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since Jan. 1 this year, 1,022 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 28 states.
New York alone has seen hundreds of confirmed cases of measles as of June 12. Majority of the cases in the state are centered around Orthodox Jewish communities.
Science And Safety Before Religious Beliefs
"We're putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immuno-compromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can't be vaccinated through no fault of their own," said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
The law will take effect immediately. However, unvaccinated students will be given up to 30 days after they enter school to get the required immunization.
The decision was met with anger from anti-vaccination supporters. Hundres of parents who refused to vaccinate their children showed up at New York's Capitol to protest the new law. After the lawmakers voted and passed the new law, those watching from the gallery cried "shame" and yelled obscenities.
"While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks," stated Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed the bill into law immediately after lawmakers voted.
New York is only the latest state to ban religious vaccine exemption. California, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Maine also no longer allow parents to opt their children out of getting required immunizations for nonmedical reasons.
Similar exemptions, however, are still allowed in 45 states. Measles have been declared elimited in the United States in 2000.