WESTFIELD, NJ — The town’s Board of Health supports a bill pending in the state Legislature to remove parents’ ability to obtain any religious exemption for getting their children vaccinated.
Public health advocates argue in favor of removing the religious exemptions from the requirement for vaccinations of their children prior to their entry into schools. The proposed law update follows an outbreak of the measles in South Jersey.
The Board of Health unanimously approved a measure supporting the bill (A-3808) after a discussion of its merits at its Monday meeting. Before becoming law, the bill would first require the full approval of the state Assembly, Senate and Gov. Phil Murphy
“We’re seeing an increase every year in the number of religious exemptions,” said Megan Avallone, director of the Westfield Regional Health Department. “We’re seeing many times that parents are using a philosophical exemption and are calling it a religious exemption.”
The bill’s update, which the state Assembly introduced Jan. 31, applies to mandatory immunization requirements for students in preschools, elementary, secondary schools and institutions of higher education.
Avallone, who is the president of the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials, said the measure is common-sense. In addition to supporting public health, it means the government would not have to judge what religious exemptions are allowed since there would be no exemptions if the law is approved, she noted.
“If you’re in favor of these new regulations, you need to make your voice heard,” Avallone said.
Infectious disease is no abstract matter.
As reported, an outbreak of the mumps at Temple University’s Philadelphia campus last week prompted health officials in New Jersey to be on the lookout for symptoms.
Last week’s outbreak in Pennsylvania follows a series of measles cases in southern New Jersey reported this year. As of March 28, the state Health Department had confirmed 10 measles cases this year with eight cases associated to the South Jersey outbreak.
Those cases included six in Ocean County and two in Monmouth County, according to state Health Department officials.
The other cases from this year include two reported in February, included a Bergen County resident who contracted measles after contact with a community outside of the state, according to state health officials.
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