New Jersey lawmakers will vote today on a controversial bill that would eradicate religion as a reason for not vaccinating school-going children.
Vaccinations are a public health issue because not getting vaccinated could increase the risk of serious complications of infectious diseases, according to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who is a sponsor of the bill.
Weinberg said, “Everyone is entitled to express their opinions but we have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all children, the people in their lives and in their communities.”
“We will get this done because it is the right thing to do and I believe we have the support in the Senate to get this legislation approved on Monday with the exemption for private schools and daycare centers that choose to allow unvaccinated students,” she added.
The bill was proposed because more and more parents in the United States avoid getting their children vaccinated on religious backgrounds albeit no major religion is against vaccination, according to a study.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “Childhood vaccination is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.”
Richard McGrath, a spokesman for Senate President Stephen Sweeney, said Republican Senator Declan O’Scanlan’s vote was the deciding one.
O’Scanlan clarified that the final amendments, where were made on Thursday, restrict the bill to public institutions and that private ones still have a choice.
He tweeted, “There are other aspects but that’s the big one. I realize this isn’t a perfect solution. But it’s a balance that I think is fair.”
On Thursday, many parents gathered outside the New Jersey State House in Trenton to protest against the bill.
Democratic Assemblyman Jamel Holley was also against the bill.
On Saturday, Holley wrote on Facebook, “I’ve been totally against this bill from day one and now I am even more compelled to oppose. This includes bringing along my fellow Members of the Assembly to vote against this discriminatory, unconstitutional, and an overreach of government.”
Citing the pending legislation, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s office did not comment. The governor said he would make decisions after collecting the bill’s facts and data.
Dr. Sean O’Leary of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society said all the non-medical exemptions to getting vaccinated should be eliminated/
He said, “From a scientific standpoint the benefits of vaccines can’t be understated. Every year, the US childhood vaccination program saves 42,000 lives. For every dollar you spend on the vaccine, you save $10 on societal cost.”
Dr. O’Leary noted that most parents who do not vaccinate their children on religious background actually have a “personal-belief objection rather than a religious one.”
“All the world’s major religions are strongly supportive of vaccination because vaccination saves lives and protects children,” he added.