Bill Limits Ability to Skip Required Vaccinations [POLL]
Stricter controls over religious exemptions proposed
Parents’ ability to prevent their children from getting state-mandated vaccinations would face new restrictions if a bill headed to a senate vote becomes law.
Exemptions from vaccines required at the elementary, secondary and college levels would be restricted to specific medical and religious reasons. The legislation’s sponsors, State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Joseph F. Vitale, said the bill is about protecting public health.
“Unfortunately, the issue of student immunizations is an emotionally-charged topic, with scientifically unfounded and discredited information standing in as fact,” Weinberg said in a statement. “While we need to be mindful of legitimate medical and religious reasons for students abstaining from vaccinations, we should not give credence to false science and put the public health in jeopardy.”
Under the bill, medical exemptions would be granted with a doctor’s written statement asserting a “medically valid rationale” regulated by the state health department, according to the statement. To skip a vaccine for religious reasons, a parent or guardian would have to document “how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student or his or her family.”
Religious exemptions would face strong regulation under the bill. Those seeking to skip the vaccine for religious reasons would be required to submit a statement affirming they have consulted with a doctor, and explaining the related religious issue and that the belief is “is not solely an expression of the person’s political, sociological, philosophical or moral views, or concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccination,” according to a news release from Senate Democrats.
“While we want to respect people’s religious beliefs and legitimate medical concerns, we cannot allow widespread exemption from immunization based on fear and false science. Not only does it put the student at risk, but it creates a risk to the general public health and well-being,” Vitale, chairman of the senate’s health, human services and senior citizens committee, said in a statement.
Weinberg said the state’s spike in whooping cough cases supported the need for vaccines.
Opponents, however, argued the legislation violates religious freedoms and added costly and time-consuming requirements.
“This bill, if passed, clearly is an overreach of power,” Victoria Jakelsky, a state coordinator for parentalrights.org, said in a report on NJSpotlight.com. “If parents have objections to immunization, they should have the right to opt out.”
-- Staff Report