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As a result of non-medical vaccination exemptions, many communities across New York have unacceptably low rates of vaccination, especially in Orthodox Jewish communities. 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.
This time science won out over religion, and public health won out over a faith based exemption to vaccination. Actually, after the country’s worst measles outbreak in decades, New York eliminated the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill ending vaccination exemptions based on religious beliefs.
The Guardian reports that the Democratic-led state senate and assembly voted to repeal the exemption, which allows parents to cite religious beliefs to forego getting their child the vaccines required for school enrollment.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the measure minutes after the final vote. The law takes effect immediately but will give unvaccinated students up to 30 days after they enter a school to show they’ve had the first dose of each required immunization. The only people who shouldn’t be required to get vaccines are people who have medical reasons for it, such as a weakened immune system.
“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis,” Governor Cuomo said. “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.”
Similar exceptions are still allowed in 45 states while governments in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver. Hundreds of parents of unvaccinated children gathered at New York’s Capitol to protest against the vote.
"We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis," said Sen. Brad Hoylman, the legislation's sponsor. "The atrocious peddlers of junk science and fraudulent medicine who we know as anti-vaxxers have spent years sowing unwarranted doubt and fear, but it is time for legislators to confront them head-on."
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. Maine ended its religious exemption this year. Mississippi and West Virginia also do not allow religious exemptions. All other countries should follow such move because no one should threaten public health with their own religious attitudes.