New York State Legislature Passes Bill Ending Religious Exemptions to Vaccinations

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Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The New York State Legislature passed a bill ending religious exemptions to vaccinations and raising awareness regarding the significance of immunizations.

The passage of the legislation (S2994/A2371) comes amid the ongoing measles outbreak in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were 1,022 individual cases of measles in 28 states as of June 6, 2019.

Most of measles cases in New York involve Orthodox Jewish community

In the State of New York, a total of 854 confirmed individual cases of measles have been reported including 588 in New York City as of June 10 and 266 in Rockland County as of June 12.

Most of the measles cases in the state involved members of the Orthodox Jewish community where there are low rates of vaccinations. A number of people from the community claim religious exemption to avoid vaccination for themselves or their children.

On April 12, the New York City Health Department ordered a mandatory measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccination for unvaccinated individuals living in select areas in Williamsburg.

A group of parents sued the Department alleging that its order lack sufficient grounds to justify such drastic measure. They argued that it is a violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution and New York State law. Kings County Supreme Court Administrative Judge Lawrence Knipel dismissed the case citing the reason that the MMR vaccination is necessary to stop the measles outbreak.

The legislature is taking action to protect the health of New Yorkers

In a statement Wednesday, New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “Vaccines save lives. We are in the midst of a measles epidemic which is completely preventable given proper immunizations. The fact that New York State has the overwhelming majority of these measles cases is shameful, and we must step up to protect New Yorkers’ health.”

On the other hand, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “Vaccines are proven tools in combating communicable disease. This is a public health issue and we have a responsibility to act on behalf of all our citizens. Because of the severity of the measles outbreak, especially in New York, we must take action to protect the individuals that are most at risk.”

New York is “putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines”

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said they are “sending a strong message to New Yorkers that vaccines are safe and effective.” He added that the legislature is “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.”

Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz, sponsor of the measure in the lower chamber commented, “New York is at the center of the worst measles outbreak in over a quarter of a century. This outbreak has spread because misinformation and irresponsible rhetoric has scared people away from vaccinating their children. We need to end the nonmedical exemptions so preventable diseases will not spread in New York again.”

The United States eliminated measles in 2000 due to the widespread use of MMR vaccine. The current outbreak is linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines where huge measles outbreaks are happening, according to CDC.

The misinformation about measles contributed to the spread of measles in the United States. Anti-vaccination groups are claiming that MMR vaccine cause autism. Scientific studies have proven that their claim is not true.