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This state just banned religious exemptions for vaccines

Amid a measles outbreak in New York — the worst in 25 years — the state has eliminated religious exemptions from school vaccination requirements. The legislation was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He said in a statement, “The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis."

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With more than 800 cases of measles reported since September, the state has seen the biggest outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish communities of Brooklyn and Rockland County. On March 26, Rockland County issued a state of emergency, banning children under the age of 18 who had not gotten a measles-containing MMR shot from entering public places, including schools, restaurants, churches, synagogues and public transportation.

The ban was initially set to expire once the state of emergency was lifted in 30 days, but was cut short when an acting New York State Supreme Court judge issued an injunction lifting the state of emergency April 5, saying the number of measles cases did not meet the legal definition of an epidemic required for an emergency order declaration.

A few days later, on April 8, 2019, New York City health officials ordered Orthodox Jewish schools and day care programs in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to bar unvaccinated students from attending classes for the remainder of the measles outbreak, or face closure. The next day, April 9, public health officials ordered residents in four Williamsburg, New York, zip codes to get vaccinated within 48 hours or face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

New York has now joined California, West Virginia, Maine and Mississippi in banning nonmedical exemptions for vaccines. New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker praised the new law. He said, “Immunizations give children the best protection from serious childhood diseases and are safe and effective. The efforts taken today stand in stark contrast to the disturbing anti-vaccination trends nationwide and underscore New York's commitment to protecting public health."