NEW DEVELOPMENT: New York Ends Religious Exemption To Vaccine Mandates

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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.

ate 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.

READ MORE MEASLES COVERAGE: 

[AND SO IT BEGINS: Sullivan County Locals Verbally Attack Orthodox Jews Over Measles]

[NYC Closes ANOTHER Satmar Yeshiva in Williamsburg Due To Measles; Violations Issued As Well]

[TOTAL BLOWOUT: 50 Anti-Vaxxers Show Up To Flatbush Event, 1,300 Empty Chairs]

[MOST ARE ORTHODOX JEWS: U.S. Measles Count Surpasses 1000; Highest Level in Over 25 Years]

[William Handler Set To Make ANOTHER Chillul Hashem at Anti-Vaxxer Event in Flatbush]

[Message To All Those Attending Anti-Vaxxer Event in Flatbush Tonight: DRESS NICELY]

[SUMMER CAMP CRACKDOWN: Sullivan County Gets Tough on Measles; $2,000 Daily Fines For Violations]

[NOW THIS: Measles at Yeshiva of South Fallsburg & Vishnitz in Kiamisha]

[MAILBAG: A Family’s Nightmare of a Young Child With Measles]

[MAJOR MONSEY MEASLES EXPOSURE ALERT: Satmar, Scheiners, Rockland Kosher, Vishnitz, Chofetz Chaim, Costco]

[Williamsburg Satmar Kehilla Condemns Handler’s Remarks at Anti-Vax Event; Rebbe Says Everyone MUST Vaccinate]

[MAILBAG: Sullivan County Resident Has Message To Jewish Anti-Vaxxers Heading Upstate This Summer]

[MAILBAG: The Measles Crisis Will Reach Unheralded Proportions This Summer]

[NYC Health Dept Closes ANOTHER Yeshiva; Measles Outbreak STILL Growing]

[WATCH: CNN Interviews Hasidic Business Owner From Monsey About Measles; New Cases SOAR in Williamsburg]

[UNPRECEDENTED: Over FIVE HUNDRED Doctors Serving Jewish Communities Across North America Say “VACCINATE”!]

[Hatzolah in NYC Joins Fight Against The Measles Outbreak – GET VACCINATED NOW]

[MEASLES SCARE: JetBlue Flight Quarantined at JFK Airport Over Suspected Measles-Infected Orthodox Jewish Passengers]

[HISTORIC: Satmar Paper “Der Yid” Publishes Editorial in ENGLISH Blasting Anti-Vaxxers]

[Israel: 10-Year-Old Boy Suffers Permanent Brain Damage After Getting Measles]

[WATCH: Trump Urges Vaccinations To Prevent Spread Of Measles]

[US Measles Outbreak is Largest Since Disease Was Declared ‘Eliminated’; 2 Pregnant Women Sickened in Williamsburg]

[MOST ARE ORTHODOX JEWS: US Measles Cases Top 700, Leading to Extraordinary Measures Around The Country]

[HATE: NYC Bus Driver Makes Anti-Semitic ‘Measles’ Remark Towards Hasidic Man in Williamsburg]

[ANOTHER GENIUS: Watch This Williamsburg Anti-Vaxxer “Community Activist” Give Media Interview]

[WATCH THIS: Williamsburg Anti-Vaxxer Mothers Give Media Shocking Interview]

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

(AP)




20 COMMENTS

  1. The two sides of this issue have no relevance to the frum community. It is a complete lie for anyone to claim that vaccinating is against Torah Law. The frum anti-vaxxers have a belief, and we know this to be based on junk science and a cult-like hysteria. I know my opinions on the subject show, but one thing it isn’t is a halacha issue. The greatest of our poskim were clear about our halachic responsibility, and I defer to tham, as always. People can believe whatever they want, but that doesn’t reframe it to be a “religious” freedom.

  2. An overreaction. Our people against vaccines use religion as a pretext. The reason they oppose is because they disagree with the science. Religious exemptions were designed for people who agree with the science but still face religious obstacles (a group of people which excludes all of our friends in Brooklyn and Monsey). Perhaps a test which can differentiate between people with a true religious objection and those who use religion as a pretext for their misinformed view would be more appropriate.

  3. This is a very welcome, and long overdue, move! There is no place for religious exemption in this issue. And there is certainly no place for religious exemption in our community as nearly all rabbonim have paskened that vaccination is mandatory. Nearly 100% of those claiming “religious exemption” are using it to hide behind their non-scientific cultist views. Hopefully, this will be put into law asap.

  4. I won’t discus whether there is or isn’t an halachic obligation to vaccinate or not.

    Fact is, kids are being injured daily.

    with the upcoming mandates there will be more, many more….

    How many kids need to be sacrificed before people wake up!

    The coming of Mashiach will bring the truth! May he come speedily, before this law has an effect on Klal Yisroel!

  5. what do you say about the kids who are sick and cant get vaccinated or are allergic to the vaccines? you were all advocating for the vaccines so the sick children are safe.well guess what you just kicked them out of school and camp. i hope you’re happy that hundreds if not thousands more yeshiva bachurim will be going off the derech because they are out of school and are not occupied in normal productive lives.

  6. Happy:

    Just to clarify. Poskim have stated clearly that there is an obligation to vaccinate. That is not a question. The matter at hand is that the anti-vaxx cult claims there is a religious basis to not vaccinate. That is completely false, and is not defensible. One may choose to be a sports fan for a particular team. If one wishes to insist that team is better, enjoy the season. But one cannot make any form of claim that there is anything religion based to that choice. THERE IS NO TORAH SUPPORT FOR ANTI-VAXX. You may argue whether the Torah obligates to vaccinate, to which our poskim have decided on that. But anti-vaxx is NOT a religious issue, and abolishing the religious exemption has no true bearing on Jews.

  7. They could have kept the religious exemption, but restricted it to genuine members of recognized religious groups that are known to have purely theological objections to vaccination or to medicine in general, such as Xian Scientists. This would work the same way it does for the religious exemption from paying Social Security taxes (and receiving benefits).

  8. what do you say about the kids who are sick and cant get vaccinated or are allergic to the vaccines? you were all advocating for the vaccines so the sick children are safe. well guess what you just kicked them out of school and camp.

    Really? Who did that? Of course they’re excluded from places that have had a known exposure, because it’s not safe for them. But who kicked them out of schools and camps where there is no known exposure?

  9. Even without this law, people who claim their religion forbids vaccinations should automatically be excluded from every Jewish religious institution, just like people who claim their religion requires wearing crosses, or forbids alcohol. We respect their religion, but it’s not ours and they have no business in our schools and shuls.

  10. Seekingthetruth,
    this bill is strictly about religious exemptions. Kids with medical exemptions are still allowed in school
    Happy parent,
    If you choose to believe the junk science, noone can stop you, but this bill says you cant use religion as your excuse. Religion was never any part of it in our community. The anti vaxxers are choosing to believe pseudo scientists rather than listen to the overwhelming majority of doctors and poskim telling them to vaccinate

  11. No one is forcing anyone to vaccinate their children. However, the state has a vested interest in keeping their citizens, especially the most vulnerable, safe from diseases.
    If you choose not to vaccinate, that is fine, however you cannot attend school or camp where the state oversees the health and safety of the children.
    You can always home school… or vaccinate.
    If kids are going off the derech as a result of this, I can assure you down the road they will blame their parents not the state or rabbonim.
    Every decision we make has consequences. We either reap the benefits or pay a price.

  12. Anti-vax had nothing to do with us but taking out the religious exemptions takes it out for any religion. Once they can do that, they can take away religious exemptions for bris mila, schita, whether or not a shul can ‘segregate’ women with a mechitza…all kinds of things.

  13. I can’t understand Mr. Eichenstien. He should have voted for this bill and if indeed there are legal problems with the bill let the courts decide. This issue also brought to the fore a major problem, how do we define religion. If a group of people will decide to do any type of behavior that most people would think is wrong (not something against the law or perhaps even against the law) in the name of religion how and when can we stop them? Let’s take three issues which are in the news that concern our community. Kapporos, Shtrimels, and secular studies. In all three cases, it’s not far fetched that the PETA agitators will one day get their way and try to ban schechita and the fur trade (as they are doing in NYC) The DOE is trying to force their education not only on us but on others as well. With this law they can always say in the name of public interest or animal interest we can’t shecht, wear shtrimels or choose our education.

  14. TLIK: If vaccinations are a health risk (as anti-vaxxers mistakenly but earnestl5 believe) then it is a religious imperative to not take them as they are potentially unhealthy.

  15. > Joseph

    What do you mean “believe”? One may “believe” in G-d. One does not “believe” for or against a demonstrated fact of nature. Thus, that religious group that refuses to allow blood transfusions never claim to “believe” that blood transfusions don’t work and/or are harmful. Their claim is their “belief” that G-d has forbidden blood transfusions, whether good for you or not. There is nothing in our religion that states that we “believe” G-d has forbidden vaccines, and nothing in our religion that states we “believe” G-d has declared vaccines harmful or fake. A “belief” that vaccines are harmful (more harmful than good) is not a religion-based belief – it is an anti-fact based belief.

  16. Whoever wrote that it doesn’t say anywhere in the Torah that vaccines arent allowed, can you pls share with me where it does say in the Torah that one may inject aborted fetal cells into their healthy kids to prevent disease.

    Yes, the MMR and some other vaccines have aborted fetal cells.