New York State Ends Religious Exemptions for Vaccines
New York state has joined California, West Virginia, Arizona, Mississippi and Maine in ending religious exemptions for parents who prefer not to vaccinate their children, The New York Times reported.
The bill passed both the state Assembly and Senate Thursday, and was immediately signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, citing a measles outbreak that has sickened 1,022 people in 28 states since January, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. That is the highest number of cases since measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.
"The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe," Cuomo said in a statement reported by NPR. "While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks."
Cuomo: "While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by si… https://t.co/XS2rMOpnoJ— Yancey Roy (@Yancey Roy)1560465165.0
The bill will require children to be vaccinated before they can attend school, no matter their parents' religious beliefs, The Associated Press reported. It goes into effect immediately, but will give unvaccinated children entering a school 30 days to show they have received the first dose of the required immunizations.
Most of the cases in the current outbreak have been reported in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland, New York and parts of Brooklyn, NPR reported, adding urgency to the question of religious exemption in the state. Emotions ran high at the vote tally in the New York State Assembly, with protesters, including parents of unvaccinated children, chanting "shame on you" after the measure passed.
The bill passed the Assembly narrowly, by 77 to 53. It needed 76 votes to pass. It then cleared the Senate by 36 to 26.
Long Island attorney and father-of-three Stan Yung, who said he did not vaccinate his children because of his Russian Orthodox beliefs and because of health concerns over vaccines, said he might now leave New York.
"People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff," Yung told The Associated Press before the vote Thursday.
Supporters of the bill argued that individual religious beliefs should not come before scientific evidence, especially when public health is at stake. Many noted that there is no clear prohibition against vaccines in many religions, and that parents might be using religious belief as an excuse to mask other health concerns based on discredited warnings about the dangers of vaccines.
"I'm not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated," Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, told The Associated Press. "If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children ... then you're the one choosing not to send your children to school."
I am incredibly proud that science has won with the passage of this bill. This will not be the end of our efforts t… https://t.co/iRYIMAJEoA— Jeffrey Dinowitz (@Jeffrey Dinowitz)1560464858.0
Manhattan Democrat Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, pointed his finger at misinformation that spreads online and falsely claims that vaccines cause autism or other conditions.
"There is a public health crisis underway and New York is the epicenter," Hoylman told The New York Times. "And numbers continue to grow because well-intentioned parents are being misinformed by anti-vax conspiracy theorists. And it's part of the state's responsibility to make sure everyone is safe in schools and day care centers."
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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