HEALTH

New York Ends Religious Exemption To Vaccine Mandates

Jun 17, 2019, 7:31 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:05 pm
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York eliminated the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren Thursday, as the nation’s worst measles outbreak in decades prompts states to reconsider giving parents ways to opt out of immunization rules.

The Democrat-led Senate and Assembly voted Thursday to repeal the exemption, which allows parents to cite religious beliefs to forego getting their child the vaccines required for school enrollment.

Gov. 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.

With New York’s move, similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states, though lawmakers in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver.

The issue is hotly contested and debate around it has often been emotional, pitting cries that religious freedom is being curtailed against warnings that public health is being endangered. After the vote in the Assembly, many of those watching from the gallery erupted in cries of “shame!” One woman yelled obscenities down to the lawmakers below.

The debate has only intensified with this year’s measles outbreak, which federal officials recently said has surpassed 1,000 illnesses, the highest in 27 years.

“I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated,” said Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s Assembly sponsor. “If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children … then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school.”

Hundreds of parents of unvaccinated children gathered at New York’s Capitol for the vote to protest.

Stan Yung, a Long Island attorney and father, said his Russian Orthodox religious views and health concerns about vaccines will prevent him from vaccinating his three young children. His family, he said, may consider leaving the state.

“People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” Yung said ahead of Thursday’s votes.

Supporters of the bill say religious beliefs about vaccines shouldn’t eclipse scientific evidence that they work, noting the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1905 that states have the right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. During the Assembly’s floor debate, supporters brought up scourges of the past that were defeated in the U.S. through vaccines.

“I’m old enough to have been around when polio was a real threat,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan. “I believe in science…. Your personal opinions, which may be based on junk science, do not trump the greater good.”

Supporters also suggest some parents may be claiming the religious exemption for their children even though their opposition is actually based on scientifically discredited claims about the dangers of vaccines.

The bill would not change an existing state exemption given to children who cannot have vaccines for medical reasons, such as a weakened immune system.

Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday that he believes public health — and the need to protect those who cannot get vaccinated because for medical reasons — outweighs the concerns about religious freedom.

“I understand freedom of religion,” he said. “I have heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”

The current measles outbreak has renewed concern about the exemptions in many states. The nation last saw as many cases in 1992, when more than 2,200 were reported.

The majority of cases are from outbreaks in New York in Orthodox Jewish communities.

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 U.S. and into Canada. Maine ended its religious exemption earlier this year.

Mississippi and West Virginia also do not allow religious exemptions.

Once common in the U.S., measles became rare after vaccination campaigns that started in the 1960s. A decade ago, there were fewer than 100 cases a year.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Health

Samantha Hansen poses for a portrait at her home in Herriman, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Hansen, a ...
KSL TV

Utah sisters disagree passionately about new abortion bill

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep Kera Birkeland, a Republican representing Morgan, has introduced HB-297 that she claims addresses the issues of abortion access and services for rape victims in Utah the Deseret News reported Friday. Read the full story here. Her sister, Samantha Hansen, is a rape survivor. She says she will fight the bill […]
16 hours ago
Doctors work on a liver transplant at Intermountain Health hospital...
Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com 

Intermountain Health breaks organ transplant record again

SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Health announced Tuesday that it broke its own record for adult organ transplants during 2022, reaching 300 donations KSL.com reported. The organization thanked its donors and caregivers in a statement Tuesday for a fourth record-breaking year for the transplant program. Organ transplants last year included 104 livers, 159 kidneys, 29 […]
4 days ago
File image of swimming pool (KSL TV)...
Michael Houck and Shara Park

Dozens of Salt Lake County public swimming pools closed due to safety concerns

About 150 public pools in Salt Lake County will shut down after not meeting updated state safety requirements.
5 days ago
Rose Tonti, 101,Mary Kawakami, 110, Hal Edison, 103, and King Green, 100. (KSL-TV)...
Annie Knox and Ashley Moser

Four Utah centenarians share advice collected over more than 100 years

An immigrant, a World War II veteran, an avid outdoorsman and an entrepreneur. They all spoke with KSL recently, but that’s not all they have in common. Each is over 100 years old. And with all that life experience, they have some insight to share.
6 days ago
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks during the United States Conf...
Allison Gordon and Pamela Brown

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms.
6 days ago
...
Ayanna Likens

Tips to set realistic mental health goals

If you are planning on setting a goal to prioritize your mental health this year, Dr. Kristin Francis at Huntsman Mental Health Institute recommends starting with small goals.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
New York Ends Religious Exemption To Vaccine Mandates