New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will end religious exemptions from vaccinations Thursday, The New York Times reports.
Cuomo immediately signed the bill after it was passed by the state legislature, noting that the state’s measles outbreak has become a public health emergency. New York joins California, Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi and Maine in barring religious exemptions from vaccines.
Many of the measles cases in New York originated in Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City and Rockland County.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat who represents Rockland County, said the county had 266 confirmed measles cases.
“Our job is not just to react to epidemics,” he said. “Our job as legislators is to prevent epidemics.”
After signing the bill, Cuomo reminded everyone that vaccines are “safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe.”
“While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health,” Cuomo said in a statement, adding that the new law “will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
Measles cases hit highest level in decades:
“The current measles outbreak has spread to 28 states, with more than 1,000 cases in total, the highest number since 1992, when more than 2,000 cases were recorded. Highly contagious, measles can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” The New York Times reported.
“Once a common disease for millions of children each year, measles was declared eliminated in 2000 after several decades of widespread vaccination. But the current outbreak has alarmed state and national health officials, as well as medical advocates.”
NY considering letting teens get vaccines against parents’ wishes:
New York lawmakers are also considering another bill that would allow teenagers to receive vaccinations even if they don’t have permission from their parents, The Times reported.
The bill would allow children 14 or older to be vaccinated for “mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, influenza, hepatitis B and measles.”
The New York chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of the bill.
“Young people are often more conscious about the misinformation on the internet and can in many cases disagree with parents who have bought into unfounded and dangerous anti-immunization diatribes and pseudoscience,” the group said. “These young people have a right to protect themselves.”