End New Jersey’s Religious Exemption to Vaccination

Dear Friend of CFI,

New Jersey’s Legislature is *this close* to ending the religious exemption to mandatory vaccination in school and child care. But the fight is not over yet.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., and Senators Loretta Weinberg and Joseph Vitale introduced legislation (A3818 and S2173, respectively) to strike this harmful exemption from New Jersey’s public health laws. A3818 passed the Assembly handily: 45 to 25, with 6 absentions. But last Monday, a Senate vote on the bill was canceled because one-just one-senator refused to commit his vote to protecting science-based medicine and public health.

Like many states, New Jersey currently requires children to be vaccinated to attend school or child care unless mom or dad objects on religious grounds. Carving out exemptions to public health law is a form of religious privilege that violates our constitutional separation of church and state. It’s also incredibly dangerous, and has already harmed many children through no fault of their own.

The resurgence of measles is a public health crisis. Vaccines are the most effective solution, protecting not only those who are vaccinated, but all those who can’t be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons, stopping diseases like measles from finding enough human hosts to spread throughout the population.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an immunization rate of at least 95 percent of the public to stop the spread of contagious diseases. But the number of religious exemptions granted in New Jersey has skyrocketed from 1,641 in the 2005-2006 school year to 12,300 in 2017-2018. Gaps in immunization due to religious exemptions are dangerous, unnecessary, and not justified by medical science.

Already, multiple communities in and around New Jersey have suffered measles outbreaks due to insufficient rates of vaccination among children. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, this year New Jersey has seen nineteen cases of measles as of November 8. There is very little time left in session to pass this legislation before the measles outbreak spreads further and more New Jerseyans get sick.

There is substantial support in the legislature for this bill. On December 12, S2173 was reported favorably by the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. And on December 16, A3818 passed the House 45-25-6. We need you to help make the final push to get this bill onto the Governor’s desk before the legislative session ends in January. 

You can help by calling your New Jersey senator today to tell them why vaccines are important to you, and why they should repeal the religious exemption now. (You can find their district office phone number here.) Do you have a child who is vaccinated and free from measles, mumps, rubella, and other deadly illnesses? Do you have a child who, due to an immunodeficiency, relies on our society to protect them through herd immunity? Are you concerned about preventing the spread of disease in your community? If so, won’t you tell your elected officials?

If you’re unable to call, you can use our action alert system to send a letter to your New Jersey senator. Take action now!

Sincerely,

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Jason Lemieux

Director of Government Affairs

Center for Inquiry


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