New Jersey About to Pass Vaccine Bill Eliminating Religious Exemption

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New Jersey state senators now have enough votes to pass a bill that would eliminate “personal beliefs” as a recognized reason for parents to exempt their children from getting vaccinations required to attend public schools.

It was a last-minute effort that saved the bill that was one vote shy of the required 21 votes, Democratic state senators made a series of amendments to the legislation to convince a Republican senator to cast the deciding vote, allowing it to narrowly pass.

“I realize this isn’t a perfect solution,” Republican state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, who provided the Democrats with the one much-needed vote, wrote on Twitter. “But it’s a balance that I think is fair.”

The Bill 3818 passed the New Jersey State Assembly by a 45-24 vote with seven abstentions on Dec. 16, 2019. A final vote is expected to happen on Jan. 13, the last full day of New Jersey’s two-year legislative session. The Assembly would also have to vote on the bill again because it has been amended.

Lawmakers say they have a responsibility “to protect the public’s health, especially children who could be exposed to infections. This is about keeping our future generations safe and healthy. Our personal health choices are not made in a vacuum. The decision to refuse vaccinations can have a real and immediate impact on the safety of others.”

New Jersey’s current immunization law requires children and babies to be vaccinated against more than a half-dozen diseases before they enroll in licensed child care programs and preschool. By the time they begin grade school, they need to receive nearly twice as many shots, including vaccines against measles, polio, tetanus, and whooping cough, among other infections, and all college students will need a meningitis vaccine.

If the bill passes both the state Assembly and Senate next Monday and is signed by Gov. Phil Murphy into law, New Jersey will join California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia in becoming the sixth state that removes religious belief as a valid reason for childhood vaccine exemption.

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