NJ bill to eliminate religious vaccine exemptions dies, supporters vow to try again

A New Jersey bill that would have eliminated religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations failed to pass the state legislature Monday, according to NJ.com.

The planned vote was reportedly canceled with state Senate leaders one vote short. Its sponsors have vowed to reintroduce the measure Tuesday after the Garden State’s two-year legislative session expires, although this will restart the clock on the public hearing and voting process.

“We’re ready to go to war over this,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D), told reporters Monday, according to NJ.com. “We will pass this bill. This is about public health. It’s about protecting people.”

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State law since 2008 has allegedly allowed parents to abstain from mandatory vaccinations for their children if they write a letter saying it would vaccinate their religious beliefs, with no further explanation required. Parents secured exemptions for 14,000 children in the last school year.

However, recent outbreaks of preventable diseases have caused widespread alarm in the area, including an outbreak of measles in Rockland County, N.Y., and New York City that included 70 percent of the 1,282 cases nationwide, NJ.com reported. New Jersey saw 19 cases of measles, the majority in Ocean County, according to the state Health Department.

“Immunizations are regularly monitored and undergo surveillance to ensure safety. Due to their effectiveness, many diseases known to have a devastating, sometimes fatal, effect on children, such as polio, were nearly eradicated in our country,” Amisha Malhotra, a pediatric infectious disease expert and associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said in a statement Monday in support of the bill.

“Ensuring that all children who are able to receive vaccines do, safeguards the health of all children,” she added.

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