NJ Assembly passes bill to bar religious exemption for shots

AP News
December 16, 2019 - 7:29 pm

NEW JERSEY (AP) — New Jersey's Assembly on Monday passed a measure to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren. The bill heads to the Senate later on Monday.

If signed into law, the measure would end religious exemptions to required immunizations for public and private school children as well as for child care centers.

The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate have set votes for Monday, with the Assembly passing the legislation 45-25, with six abstentions.

If approved the bill would go to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's desk. His office declined to say what he would do with the bill. 

New Jersey would join a handful of states, including New York and California, in doing away with the religious exemption, if the bill becomes law. 

Every state requires some vaccines for students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but exemptions differ from state to state. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia allow for religious exemptions to immunizations, according to the conference.

The New Jersey bill gained traction this year, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says has seen the greatest number of measles cases reported since 1992. 

The measure preserves exemptions in cases where doctors can cite medical reasons to forgo vaccines. 

Opponents of the bill surrounded the Statehouse on Monday, speaking into megaphones to ask lawmakers to oppose the bill. Some carried signs that read: "We will not comply" and "Vote No."

Lawmakers say the bill is necessary to keep children safe and have criticized "misinformation and hysteria swirling" around the bill. 

"There is no exemption for drunk driving or wearing a seat belt, there should not be an exemption from a patently safe vaccine that, if not taken, puts the health and well-being of our children at risk," Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said.

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