measles vaccine

Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion, USA Today

Lawmakers Push Legislation To Eliminate Religious Exemptions For Vaccines

April 05, 2019 - 2:15 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As measles outbreaks continue to grow in New York City and Rockland County, some state lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would end religious exemptions on required vaccines.

Between Rockland, Queens and Brooklyn, there are currently over 400 New Yorkers who have recently become infected with measles.

“It's a very real problem. It is specifically focused on a few communities, particularly in the Orthodox Jewish community,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We've been meeting with our health officials, and meeting with community leaders, making very clear that this has to be addressed.”

While most cases are in predominately Jewish neighborhoods, according to Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, there is no religious doctrine in the faith that states vaccinations are bad.

“There are people who don't believe in evolution, there are people who don't believe the earth is round, there are people who don't believe we landed on the moon and there are people who don't believe in vaccinations, and all of those people are wrong,” Dinowitz said.

Currently, there are two exemptions for getting around school vaccines requirements: a diagnosed medical reason or a religious objection.

Dinowitz calls the religious exemption “a loophole used by anti-vaxxers” that needs to be closed. He is co-sponsoring legislation that would eliminate that exemption.

He says the move “will save lives” and notes the legislation is strictly “about saving lives, protecting kids.”

While many lawmakers support the measure, some have come out against the proposal saying it goes too far and is an invasion of a family’s personal choices.

The legislation comes as Rockland County has issued an emergency order to ban all unvaccinated minors from public spaces to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mayor de Blasio also noted, “We've been clear that religious schools have to ensure that no children come into the school who are unvaccinated or, of course, who have measles at the time.”

The mayor says if schools do not comply, serious sanctions could result, including financial penalties and if necessary, the temporary closure of schools that do not acknowledging the danger.

A judge is also expected to make a ruling Friday on a challenge to Rockland County's emergency order.

The parents of several dozen students at a Chestnut Ridge school filed the lawsuit, asking a state Supreme Court judge to temporarily declare the order invalid.