New York Ends Religious Exemptions for Vaccines Amid Measles Panic

Friday, June 14, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Kurt Williamsen
Friday, 14 June 2019

New York is the most recent state to impose a stricter compulsory immunization policy.

The state’s lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation that eliminates religious exemptions to vaccinations for schoolchildren. Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill just minutes after it made its way through both the Assembly and the Senate.

Proponents of the legislation painted the bill as a response to what many mainstream media outlets are calling “the nation’s worst measles outbreak in decades.”

Governor Cuomo called the outbreak a public health emergency and asserted that public health trumps religious liberties. “While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health,” he said.

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, a Rockland County Democrat, argued that his county alone had 266 confirmed measles cases and over a dozen hospitalizations — which prompted his family to accelerate vaccinations for his one-year-old daughter.

“Our job is not just to react to epidemics,” said Zebrowski prior to his “yes” vote. “Our job as legislators is to prevent epidemics.”

Most of the measles cases have occurred in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County. Opponents of the bill were vocal at the Assembly vote, where cries of “shame” descended from the gallery after the legislation passed 77-53. It went on to pass 36-26 in the Senate.

The hundreds of protesters at the New York Capitol included children, families, and member of the state’s religious community.

Stan Yung, a Long Island father, said he is considering moving his family out of state because his Russian Orthodox views keep him from vaccinating his children. “People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” Yung explained.

Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, shot back at claims that compulsory vaccination infringes on religious freedom. “I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated,” Dinowitz stated. “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.”

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