TRENTON, NJ – Depending on what source you look at, New Jersey legislators may or may not be changing vaccine laws.  No doubt putting an end to religious exemptions has many up in arms. Protesters say the government shouldn’t have the right to mandate dates and times of vaccinations. In the meantime, no one seems to be talking about some already enacted vaccine laws.

This week, Governor Phillip Murphy signed multiple bills into law. Assembly Bill 1576 requires certain health care facilities to offer, and health care workers to receive annual influenza vaccinations.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway, chair of the Health Committee applauded the signed legislation, saying, As a physician, I cannot overstate the importance of getting an annual flu shot. It’s even more vital for health care workers who come in contact with ill people each day to get vaccinated. The flu is a very serious disease with high rates of morbidity and mortality. We must protect our most vulnerable populations – including health care professionals and their patients – from catching and spreading the flu.”

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The new law calls upon hospitals, nursing home health care agencies to offer flu shots to particular employees. This includes workers who provide direct patient care or otherwise have contact with patients. According to Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Annual flu vaccinations have been recommended for health care providers by the Center for Disease Control since 1981. However, only 78.4 percent of health care workers in the U.S. reported receiving the flu vaccine during the 2017-18 seasons. Requiring health care providers to get the flu shot each year will potentially help reduce cases of the flu in hospitals, care facilities and the greater community.”

The vaccinations may be offered on-site or off-site. Health care workers who can present proof they’ve already been vaccinated won’t have to submit to another shot.  The originally proposed bill would allow employees to submit a written declination statement. However, now specified health care workers who do not wish to accept the vaccination must submit a request for a medical exemption.

Employees requesting the medical exemption must use a form designated by the Department of Health, stating that the influenza vaccination is medical contradicted. The facility will need to confirm the exemption follows relevant standards. Health care facilities are expected to educate and promote the vaccinations.

Governor Murphy signed a second bill dealing with immunizations today. Assembly Bill 1991 requires ALL students at four-year institutions of higher education to receive immunization for meningitis in accordance with recommendations of Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Previously, the bill only targeted students living in dormitories.

Notably, this law applies only to students who reside in college dormitories. Students who live off campus or attend two year colleges are not required to receive immunizations for meningococcal disease.  The act takes effect on September 1, 2020.