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New York ends religious exemption to vaccine requirements for school children

Meanwhile, Jessica Biel has said she does not support a bill in California that would limit medical exemptions.

Image: Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen

NEW YORK LAWMAKERS have voted to eliminate the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for school children.

The Democrat-led Senate and Assembly voted to repeal the exemption, which allows parents to cite religious beliefs to forego getting their child the vaccines required for school enrollment.

The law takes effect immediately but will give unvaccinated students up to 30 days after they enter a school to show they’ve had the first dose of each required immunisation.

The debate in the US surrounding vaccinations has intensified this year’s with a major measles outbreak  which federal officials recently said has surpassed 1,000 illnesses, the highest in 27 years.

The Orthodox Jewish community, along with other minorities such as the Amish community, do not necessarily have religious objections to vaccinations but local media in the region has in recent months reported that they can be more vulnerable to ‘anti-vaxx’ movements. 

Supporters of the bill say religious beliefs about vaccines shouldn’t eclipse scientific evidence that they work, noting the US Supreme Court ruled in 1905 that states have the right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws.

Hundreds of parents of unvaccinated children gathered at New York’s Capitol for the vote to protest.

The bill would not change an existing state exemption given to children who cannot have vaccines for medical reasons, such as a weakened immune system.

Jessica Biel

With New York’s move, similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states, though lawmakers in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver.

For example, Actress Jessica Biel has said she is not opposed to vaccinations, but that she does not support a bill in California that would limit medical exemptions. 

The 37-year-old has drawn criticism after appearing this week in Sacramento with vaccination skeptic Robert F Kennedy Jr to voice concerns about the measure.

View this post on Instagram

This week I went to Sacramento to talk to legislators in California about a proposed bill. I am not against vaccinations — I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians. My concern with #SB276 is solely regarding medical exemptions. My dearest friends have a child with a medical condition that warrants an exemption from vaccinations, and should this bill pass, it would greatly affect their family’s ability to care for their child in this state. That’s why I spoke to legislators and argued against this bill. Not because I don’t believe in vaccinations, but because I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients and the ability to provide that treatment. I encourage everyone to read more on this issue and to learn about the intricacies of #SB276. Thank you to everyone who met with me this week to engage in this important discussion!

A post shared by Jessica Biel (@jessicabiel) on

Biel posted on Instagram yesterday morning that she supports children getting vaccinated and she also supports families having the “right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians”. 

She wrote that she argued against the bill because her friends have a child with a medical condition warranting an exemption and the bill would “greatly affect their family’s ability to care for their child”. 

Measles in Ireland

Measles are most commonly diagnosed among children between the ages of one and four but can affect all ages, and those with other illnesses and pregnant women are at particular risk. 

There were 74 reported cases Ireland in 2018, up from 25 reported cases in 2017.

An episode of the TheJournal.ie’s The Explainer podcast earlier this year examined why there has been such a huge increase globally in a disease that was once thought to be on its way to being eradicated.


Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

MEASLES: How to recognise the symptoms?

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Red rash that starts on the head and spreads down the body – this normally starts a few days after onset of illness; the rash consists of flat red or brown blotches, which can flow into each other; it lasts about four to seven days
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy pain may also happen

Measles can cause chest infections, fits (seizures), ear infections, swelling of the brain and/or damage to the brain.

The Department of Health gives the following advice in relation to the MMR vaccine:

  • All children should get the MMR vaccine when they are aged 12 months; if any child aged over 12 months has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP
  • All children should get a second dose of MMR vaccine when they are four to five years old or in junior infants at school; if any child in senior infants or older has missed this vaccine they should get it now from their GP
  • Adults under 40 years who have not had measles or have not received two doses of MMR vaccine should contact their GP to get the MMR vaccine
  • Adults over 40 years of age may sometimes be at risk and if such adults never had measles nor a measles-containing vaccine they should consider getting the MMR vaccine from their GP

What advice does the HSE give to people who think they might have measles?

  • Do not go to work, school or crèche
  • Stay at home and phone your GP – tell the doctor or nurse that you think you might have measles
  • Stop visitors coming to your home
  • Pregnant women who have been exposed to measles should seek medical advice as soon as possible

 With reporting by Associated Press

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