Vaccines

NJ Assembly Votes to Eliminate Religious Exemptions for Vaccines for Students

New Jersey's Assembly on Monday passed a measure to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, but the bill stalled in the state Senate as opponents shouted so loudly they drowned out the session

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What to Know

  • New Jersey's Assembly on Monday passed a measure to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, but the bill stalled in the state Senate as opponents shouted so loudly they drowned out the session.
  • The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill 45-25, with six abstentions, while the Democrat-controlled Senate had also scheduled a vote
  • The Senate has gone into recess amid loud chants from opponents who shouted “We do not consent,'' and “In God we trust.''

New Jersey's Assembly on Monday passed a measure to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, but the bill stalled in the state Senate as opponents shouted so loudly they drowned out the session.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill 45-25, with six abstentions, while the Democrat-controlled Senate had also scheduled a vote. The Senate has gone into recess amid loud chants from opponents who shouted “We do not consent,'' and “In God we trust.''

It's unclear why the bill has stalled in the state Senate, but the opponents, including a number of young children, crowded the courtyard outside the chamber to chant opposition slogans.

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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.

Monday marked big steps for three proposed bills in New Jersey. The measures involve eliminating religious exemptions for vaccines, licenses for undocumented immigrants and voting on recreational marijuana. NBC10's Jim Rosenfield explains.

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 argue that the measure infringes on their rights as parents to decide what's best for their children.

“I know these kids pose no threat,” Jacqueline Gravely, a second-grade teacher from Berkeley Township, New Jersey, told NBC10. “These are healthy kids with educated parents. We’re not talking about 1912 or a third-world country.”

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.

The number of religious exemptions for New Jersey public schoolchildren jumped from 1600 to 13,000 between 2006 and 2018, according to the State Department of Education.

“I have 14 nieces and nephews,” Cristiana Crespo of Ewing, New Jersey, told NBC10. “My sister is a registered nurse. And all her kids are vaccinated. She doesn’t want them to get the measles. She doesn’t want them to get typhoid.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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