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Lawmakers keep pushing to end religious exemptions for vaccines in New York

There are now more than 700 confirmed measles cases nationally, with the bulk of them concentrated in Brooklyn and Rockland County, but state lawmakers are yet to act on a bill that would end the religious exemptions for vaccinations.

Lawmakers who back the bill on Monday held a press conference with medical associations, including the Medical Society of New York, to call for the bill’s passage. Their audience, in part, was some of their colleagues.

“I think there are some legislators that are skeptics on this issue and we’re working to convince them,” said Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, a Democrat from the Bronx. “I think the vast majority of legislators in both houses, I’m sure, support this. They understand the importance. But until this year, very few people focused on it.”

Physicians have long pushed back against the discredited theory that vaccinations can be a factor in autism.



But at this measles outbreak is primarily effecting Orthodox Jewish communities in New York. Some lawmakers have raised issues with the religious freedom aspect of the legislation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week in a radio interview said he understood the religious concerns, but said the public health issues were an overriding issue.

“As governor of New York, I’m also concerned about the public health,” Cuomo said on WNYC’s The Briand Lehrer Show. “You cannot endanger your child’s health or my child’s health.”

Supporters of the bill doubt, however, the religious exemption is being used appropriately.

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