New York Repeals Religious Exception To Vaccination Requirements For Schoolchildren

If you are the parent of an unvaccinated child attending school in New York State, you will have up to 30 days after your child enters school to get them started on required immunization.

So states the measure, newly signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which immediately put an end to the religious exception to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren amidst the country’s worst measles outbreak in decades, the Associated Press reports.

According to the wire, the Democratic-led state senate and the assembly voted on Thursday to repeal the exception, which previously allowed parents to cite religious beliefs to opt their children out of the vaccinations normally required for school enrollment.

After the final vote, Cuomo signed it into law, with the measure taking effect immediately, although, as previously stated, parents will have a 30 day grace period. At 30 days, students will have to show that they’ve had the first dose of each required immunization.

“I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated,” Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s assembly sponsor said, according to the AP. “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.”

That being said, the repeal has caused an outrage amongst the parents of unvaccinated children, hundreds of whom, according to the report, gathered at the state Capitol to protest against the vote.

One parent, and Long Island attorney, Stan Yung said that his Russian Orthodox religious views and his health concerns about vaccines were the reason he did not want to vaccinate his three children. So much so that he told the AP that the family may consider moving from the state.

“People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” Yung said before the votes on Thursday.

This year’s measles outbreak ranks the highest in 27 years, with more than 1,000 illnesses being reported.

Cuomo said on Wednesday that public health, and the need to protect those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons – those who are still covered under the exception, supersedes concerns over 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.”