The New Jersey bill would eliminate religion as a reason not to vaccinate school children

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<pre><pre>The New Jersey bill would eliminate religion as a reason not to vaccinate school children

Senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg, sponsor of the bill, said vaccines are a public health problem and noted the fatal consequences of infectious diseases in a statement to CNN.

"Everyone has the right to express their opinions, but we have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all children, people in their lives and in their communities," he said.

"We will do this because it is the right thing and I think we have the support in the Senate to pass this legislation on Monday with the exemption for private schools and nurseries that choose to allow unvaccinated students."

The bill is put to the vote when a growing number of parents in the United States cite faith to avoid vaccinating their children, according to a new study, despite the fact that no major religion opposes vaccination.
According to the CDC, childhood vaccination is "essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to life-threatening diseases."

Final amendments to the bill were made Thursday at the state Senate floor before being adopted in an 18-15 vote, said Richard McGrath, spokesman for Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

The proposed bill includes an exemption for private schools and private nurseries, McGrath said. This would allow schools and private centers to decide if they want to accept unvaccinated students, as long as they disclose to all students their vaccination rate at that particular school.

McGrath said Republican Senator Declan O & # 39; Scanlan was the deciding vote. in a Twitter post On Thursday afternoon, O & # 39; Scanlan clarified that the amendments restrict the bill to public institutions, and that private ones still have a choice.

"There are other aspects, but that is the most important. I realize that this is not a perfect solution. But I think it is a fair balance," he tweeted.

Some parents question the effectiveness of vaccines.

A few thousand people gathered Thursday in front of the New Jersey State House in Trenton to protest the bill, Beata Savreski, mother of three children and opponent of the bill, told CNN.

Savreski, 40, hopes the law will not be passed on Monday. Even with the exemption she doesn't see it as fair or even as a compromise, he said.

"I am against removing all control of the parents' hands and putting it in the hands of the government," Savreski said. "I grew up in communism. This is worse than communism."

Assemblyman Jamel Holley has also expressed his opposition to the bill.

"I have been totally against this bill since day one and now I am even more obliged to oppose it. This includes bringing my fellow members of the Assembly to vote against this discriminatory, unconstitutional and excessive government," he wrote. Saturday in a post on your verified Facebook page.

The office of the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, declined to comment, citing pending legislation.

"The number one job for me has been and will continue to be the safety and health of all 9 million people in New Jersey, including especially our vulnerable communities and even, if not more, our children," he said last week. monthly radio call program at WBGO.

The governor added that he will make decisions on any bill based on science, facts and data.

Dr. Sean O & # 39; Leary, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said that all non-medical exceptions to vaccines should be eliminated and that the benefits outweigh the risks.

"From a scientific point of view, the benefits of the vaccine cannot be underestimated," he said. "Every year, the US vaccination program saves 42,000 lives. For every dollar you spend on vaccines, you save $ 10 on social costs."

He defined social cost as the direct cost of illness plus indirect costs such as lack of school and work.

O & # 39; Leary said that most parents who choose not to vaccinate their children and use the exception of religion actually have an objection of personal belief rather than a religious one.

"All the major religions in the world strongly support vaccination because the vaccine saves lives and protects children," he said.

A small fraction of New Jersey students have used the exemption

According to a table on the New Jersey state website, 2.3% of kindergarteners and 1.7% of sixth grade students used the religious exemption in the 2018-2019 school year.

The New Jersey Department of Education declined to comment.

The bill is expected to be passed, but some lawmakers still have doubts about its content. A spokesman for Senator Joseph Lagana told CNN: "Senator Lagana takes this issue very seriously. While he and his wife have chosen to vaccinate their children, he is concerned about the proposal to completely eliminate a process of religious exemptions." .

The vote on the bill will take place on Monday both in the Senate and in the Assembly, McGrath said. If the bill is not approved on Monday, it will be postponed until the next legislative session, which begins on Tuesday.