A measles outbreak affecting more than 800 has swept the New York City neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. In response, New York is demanding that school children be vaccinated, regardless of their parents’ religious beliefs.
On Thursday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that removes non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements. This law has gone into effect immediately.
The move is opposed by anti-vaxxers and religious freedom advocates. Despite this, New York city is now joining the select few other states that do not allow non-medical vaccination exemptions. These states are California, Mississippi, Maine, and West Virginia.
In a statement given Thursday, Cuomo said the “science is crystal clear.”
“Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe,” Cuomo said. “This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis.”
Cuomo told the public that public health must come first.
“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.”
The bill, which was introduced in January, was signed by Cuomo right after it was passed by the Legislature. The Senate voted 36-26 and the Assembly voted 77-53.
New York has become the epicenter of a 9-month measles outbreak that has swept the United States. More than 800 people in New York have become sick and have infected people in four other states. So far, over 1,000 measles cases have been confirmed in 28 states, making it the largest measles outbreak in the US in nearly 30 years. Measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000 according to the CDC.
The majority of the measles cases in New York City have occurred in the Orthodox Jewish communities of Brooklyn and Queens. These communities often claim religious exemptions to vaccinations, which has led to a low vaccination rate.
Anti-vaxxers have targeted the Orthodox Jewish community with messages that vaccines cause autism. Also, many in this community travel to Israel and Europe regularly, where there have been over 100,000 measles cases in 2019.
Featured image via Flickr