New York has eliminated the religious exemption for vaccine requirements for children, sparking outcry among Orthodox Jews.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the measure on Thursday. The law takes effect immediately but will give unvaccinated students up to 30 days after they enter a school to show proof that they received the first dose of each required immunization.
All children in NY state are now required to receive immunizations to protect against garden variety viruses including Hepatitis B, influenza, and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccinations prior to enrollment into public schools.
The new law comes as the nation is gripped by the worst measles outbreak in decades. The Democrat-led Senate and Assembly voted Thursday to repeal the religious exemption, which allowed religious parents to avoid vaccinating their children prior to enrollment into schools.
Orthodox Jews loudly voiced their opposition to the measure in the gallery after the vote. Many of those watching from the gallery erupted in shouts of "shame!" One woman yelled obscenities down to the lawmakers below.
Hundreds of parents who have unvaccinated children protested the vote at New York's Capitol.
Stan Yung, a Long Island attorney and father, said his Russian Orthodox religious views prevents him from vaccinating his three young children.
"People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” Yung said ahead of Thursday's votes.
He said he is considering moving to another state.
But Democratic lawmakers were unsympathetic. "I'm not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated," said Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill's Assembly sponsor.
"If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children ... then you're the one choosing not to send your children to school."
NY is among a handful of states to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccinations. Similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states.
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