In an apparent move to curtail the spread of measles outbreak in New York, the Governor, Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill Thursday that ends vaccination exemptions based on religious beliefs for required vaccines.
The United States is experiencing the worst measles outbreak in decades. According to the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention, individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 28 states and the number of new measles cases has exceeded 1,000, the highest numbers in 27 years, a new report has said.
Cuomo said the new law could help contain the increases in measles cases in New York, the worst hit state by the outbreaks due to low vaccination rates in some ultra-Orthodox settlement.
The Gov. said after signing the bill:
“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. While I understand and respect the freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmission and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
The law ending exemptions to immunization goes into operation with immediate effect. In 2017/2018 academic year , over 26,000 students claimed exemptions based on their religious beliefs. Most of the outbreaks in measles have been found in ultra-orthodox communities thus fuelling debates on exemptions from required vaccines.
In giving justification for the bill, the New York Assembly memo states:
“Existing New York State law requires all children in New York to receive certain immunizations for poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, HiB, hepatitis B, and varicella. The law provides an exemption from the immunization requirements where a physician certifies that the immunization may be detrimental to a child’s health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sustaining a high vaccina- tion rate among school children is vital to the prevention of disease outbreaks, including the reestablishment of diseases that have been largely eradicated in the United States, such as measles.
According to State data from 2013-2014, there are at least 285 schools in New York with an immunization rate below 85%, including 170 schools below 70%, far below the CDC’s goal of at least a 95% vaccination rate to maintain herd immunity. This bill would repeal exemptions currently found in the law for children whose parents have non-medical objections to immuniza-tions.”
Children who are yet to be vaccinated have up to thirty days to prove to school officials that they have taken their first shot of required immunization.