In the wake of a resurgence of diseases once thought eliminated, the state of New York has passed legislation that bans religious exemptions for vaccinations, joining California, Mississippi, West Virginia and Maine in eliminating that loophole. Naturally those who have fallen for the anti-vaccination misinformation put out by some people and used the religious exemption to avoid getting their children vaccination are not happy.
The law passed on Thursday night, and led to chaotic scenes in the statehouse as anti-vaccination supporters clashed with lawmakers.
Much of New York’s outbreak has centred around orthodox Jewish communities.
More than 1,000 Americans have been diagnosed with measles in 2019. Health officials say the disease is resurging.
Last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the US, which effectively eliminated measles in 2000, may lose its “measles elimination status” as infections climb to a 27-year high.
The new law in New York, which was passed by the state’s Democratic Senate and Assembly chambers, bans parents from claiming religious exemptions which used to allow their children to forgo vaccinations that are normally required for school.
“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, who sponsored the bill.
State Senator Brad Hoylman added: “We’re putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immuno-compromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can’t be vaccinated through no fault of their own.”
As the law was passed in Albany, religious protestors who had gathered to voice opposition to the bill began chanting “shame”, while others screamed profanity.
“We’ll be back for you Jeffrey!” shouted one man in religious garb, addressing the bill’s sponsor.
Meanwhile California is considering further legislation that would limit medical exemptions from vaccinations without approval from a state public-health officer. Being the home of Hollywood, some celebrity anti-vaxxers like actress Jessica Biel have joined anti-vaxxer activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (whose main claim to fame seems to be that he shares the name of his father) to lobby against that state’s move.
Incidentally, just like Intelligent Design advocates try to reject the accurate label of ‘creationist’ even though it is accurate, anti-vaxxers try to distance themselves from that label.
In a statement on Instagram early Thursday, Biel attempted to reject the label “anti-vaxxer,” despite having lobbied alongside Kennedy, the founder of the Children’s Health Defense, an organization that devotes significant efforts to making factually incorrect claims about the levels of mercury in vaccinations and their safety for use in infants. “I am not against vaccinations” Biel wrote. “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians.”
(As NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny noted of Biel’s statement, “Important for those not versed in anti-vaxx talking points: anti-vaxx activists say ‘I am not against vaccines,’ preferring language like ‘pro-choice’ or ‘skeptic’ etc etc. Biel’s Insta post isn’t a walk back and it isn’t ‘setting the record straight.’ It’s a basic confirmation.”)