Measles Outbreak: New York State Ends Religious Exemptions For Vaccinations

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New Yorkers can no longer claim religious exemptions to avoid vaccinations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill yesterday that ended vaccination exemptions based on religious beliefs.

The measure is meant to protect the public amid the worst measles outbreak in decades, which the governor called a “public health crisis.”

Cuomo said the new law takes effect immediately.

“If your kid is immunocompromised and going to school or a day care center, you want to know that they’re going to be safe,” said State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the bill.

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The measles outbreak started in October and spread through parts of Brooklyn, particularly in the Orthodox Jewish communities. Since the start of June, there have been more than 250 confirmed cases in Rockland County.

“It’s our obligation to act. We have to do everything we can to get the number of people vaccinated up,” State Sen. David Carlucci, who represents Westchester and Rockland counties, said.

Parents against vaccinations protested in Assembly chambers Thursday.

“The government does not have the right to interfere with my personal religious beliefs,” said one woman. “We will not vaccinate. What’s going to happen is we’re going to either home school or we’re going to move out of state.”

MEASLES HEALTH EMERGENCY RESOURCES

Under the new law, unvaccinated children will not be allowed to go to school across the state. However, parents will still be able to opt out of vaccinating for health reasons, such as weakened immune systems.

“Despite my pro-vaccination stance and despite my beliefs that there are no religious restrictions, it is my constitutional duty to vote in the negative,” Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein said.

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The governor’s office said it’s up to each school administration to enforce the new law.

Also Thursday, the New York City health department shut down two more Williamsburg yeshivas for allowing unvaccinated children and staff on site.

Grandparents and parents at Yeshiva Torah V’Yirah on Bedford Avenue were surprised to learn the school shut down and remained closed Friday.

“I have a child in the school. They are so strict here. You can’t even imagine. I can promise you that a public school is not as strict as this place,” one guardian said.

Yeshiva Torah V’Yirah and UTA 212 will not be allowed to reopen until they put forward a plan to fix the problem and health officials sign off.