Monday, February 24, 2020

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As the preventable measles outbreak tragically continues throughout New Jersey and the United States, it is time for concerned New Jersey residents to contact their state legislators and insist that they pass legislation that will remove the religious exemption from New Jersey’s mandatory vaccination law.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that nationwide there has been an increase of kindergarteners that have received an exemption to state mandatory vaccine policies, the majority of which were for non-medical concerns. New Jersey’s exemption rate rose in 2017-2018.

On April 2, the Highland Park Borough Council passed a resolution in support of Assembly Bill A-3818, and amending the Senate version of Bill S-2173, which will clarify statutory exemptions from mandatory immunizations for students, and would remove the religious exemption as a reason public and private school parents can refrain from having their children vaccinated. If A-3818 were law, only medical exemptions, under which parents could obtain a written statement from a health professional indicating the medical reason their child should be exempted from mandatory vaccinations would be permitted.

As to the constitutionality of A-3818, in 2018, California’s mandatory vaccination law was upheld by the Second Appellate District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles which found that California’s requiring vaccination of nearly all public and private school students against contagious illnesses did not violate freedom of religion or the right to an education. It cited a 1944 Supreme Court decision in Prince v. Massachusetts that did not exempt a religious group from child-labor laws, which stated that “The right to practice religion freely does not include the liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”

This past week New York became the latest state to ban religious exemptions for vaccines. It is time for New Jersey to do the same to protect its residents’ health and well-being from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Josh Fine
Council Member, Borough of Highland Park