Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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Gov. Cuomo Signs Bill To End Religious Exemptions For Vaccinations

June 13, 2019 - 6:42 pm
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ALBANY (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed new legislation ending religious exemptions for vaccinations in New York State.

The bill quickly passed through the state Assembly and Senate Thursday afternoon. Gov. Cuomo signed it into law soon after saying, “While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health.”

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported, there’s no doctrine among the major religions of the world that prohibits vaccinations. However, since measles reemerged in Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland County and Brooklyn, anti-vaxxers have raised objections to mandatory inoculations.

Local lawmakers say those groups might have a moral, philosophical or scientific objection, but this isn't about faith.

In Rockland County, rabbis have urged people to get vaccinated.

Lawmakers are poised to put an end to the religious exemption for vaccinations, saying it's antiquated.

Gov. Cuomo had previously said he supported eliminating the exemption in order to "protect the public health."

"I understand freedom of religion. We all do. We respect it. I've heard the anti-vaxxers theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk," Cuomo said. "The responsibility for the government of the State of New York is yes to protect the constitutional rights of individuals but it is also to protect the public health."

Once lawmakers pass this measure and the governor signs it, the only exemption would be for a medical reason that could harm a child.

Federal health officials have said the number of measles cases in 2019 have surpassed the count for all of 2018.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include a cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever, and a red, blotchy skin rash.

About 1 child out of every 1,000 who becomes infected with measles will develop encephalitis, which causes swelling of the brain. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles will develop pneumonia, which can be deadly, according to the CDC.