Measure Would Ensure Uniform Exemption Standards for Mandatory Vaccines for Documented Health Reasons, Religious Beliefs
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would clarify the State’s policy regarding exemptions from mandatory immunizations for students based on legitimate medical reasons or genuine religious beliefs was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 6-1, with one abstention.
“Right now, there’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstood information about vaccination, and as a result many parents are afraid to get their kids vaccinated,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen and Chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee. “If vaccines are ever proven to be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, I’ll be among the first sponsors to repeal their mandatory administration. But until such time as the medical community determines vaccines to be dangerous, immunization is and should be the law of the land, and exemptions should be limited to medical or religious reasons.”
Senator Weinberg’s bill, S-2625, would amend existing laws and regulations that require the immunization of students at an elementary or secondary school or an institution of higher education. Under the bill, students would only be granted an exemption if:
• a written statement is submitted to the school by a licensed physician indicating that the vaccine is contraindicated for a set period of time, based upon valid medical reasons. Under the medical basis for exemption, the student would be exempt from the vaccination requirement for the time period set forth in the physician’s statement;
• a written statement submitted to the school by the student, or if the student is minor, by their parent or guardian, explaining that the administration of the vaccine contradicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student or her/her parents. Under the religious basis for exemption, a general philosophical or moral objection to vaccination would not be sufficient to grant exemption. Additionally, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services may suspend the exemption on religious grounds during the existence of a medical emergency, as determined by the Commissioner.
The exemption standards under the bill would apply universally to all vaccines required for students, and would mirror existing exemption standards for the immunization of hepatitis B. Under existing law, there are different vaccination exemption standards for different vaccines.
“This bill preserves legitimate grounds for exemption from immunization, while ensuring that those exemption standards are applied universally for every inoculation currently required for students in New Jersey,” said Senator Weinberg. “The patchwork of exemption laws and regulations on the books have created nearly as much confusion about immunization requirements as the pseudo-scientific studies have created about the dangers of immunization in general. The fact remains that immunization is a useful tool to ensure public health and avoid outbreaks of disease, and we must ensure maximum compliance with the law, while respecting people’s individual religious rights and legitimate medical concerns.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.