Following the countrys worst measles outbreak in decades, New York has eliminated the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren.
The States Democrat-led Senate and Assembly, voted on Thursday to repeal the exemption, which allowed parents to cite religious beliefs to prevent their child receiving the vaccines required for school enrollment.
The law takes effect immediately, but will give unvaccinated students up to 30 days after they enter a school to show theyve had the first dose of each required immunization.
With New Yorks move, similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states, though lawmakers in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver.
The issue is hotly contested, with debate around it often emotional, pitting cries that religious freedom is being curtailed against warnings that public health is being endangered.
After the vote in the Assembly, many of those watching from the gallery erupted in cries of shame!
The debate has only intensified with this years measles outbreak, which federal officials recently said has surpassed 1,000 illnesses, the highest in 27 years.
Im not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated, said Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bills Assembly sponsor.
If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children … then youre the one choosing not to send your children to school.
Hundreds of parents of unvaccinated children gathered at New Yorks Capitol for the vote to protest.
Stan Yung, a Long Island attorney and father, said his Russian Orthodox religious views and health concerns about vaccines will prevent him from vaccinating his three young children.
His family, he said, may consider leaving the state.