NJ bill to remove religious exemption from immunization stalls in state senate

Legislation proposed by Loretta Weinberg fails to pick up enough votes to advance before deadline to pass laws

A one-dose bottle of the measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine. (George Frey/Getty Images via JTA)
A one-dose bottle of the measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine. (George Frey/Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — A bill that would have ended a policy allowing New Jersey parents not to immunize their children because of religious beliefs and still enroll them in school stalled in the state Senate.

The Senate did not have enough votes to advance the measure to the General Assembly and the governor, so there was no vote on Monday — the last chance to pass bills before the end of the two-year legislative session.

The bill included an exemption for private schools, which could decide for themselves whether or not to accept unvaccinated students. The exemption was approved as an amendment on Thursday.

State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat and a sponsor of the legislation, said the Senate would reintroduce a new version in the 2020-21 session.

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg speaks after being sworn in as majority leader, January 9, 2018, in Trenton, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Some 2.3 percent of kindergartners and 1.7% of sixth graders in New Jersey used the religious exemption in the 2018-19 school year, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

Agudath Israel of America was among the organizations that lobbied against the legislation.

A woman receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, New York, March 27, 2019. (Seth Wenig/AP)

A massive measles outbreak spread though New York City from October 2018 and ended in September 2019.

New York is among four states that have limited or revoked religion-based vaccination exemptions, according to The New York Times.

“As immunization rates drop and outbreaks of preventable disease rise, I’m disappointed we were not able to vote on this vital legislation,” Weinberg said in a statement.

She added: “Though I understand the passion of those opposed, fundamentally, this is not a personal choice and in society it is the duty of healthy members to work together to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

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