National Consumers League

NCL applauds brave New York State legislators who stood up to anti-vaxxers by eliminating religious exemptions for vaccines

June 14, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) strongly supports the New York legislature’s vote yesterday to end religious exemptions for vaccinations. New York has been the epicenter of the nation’s measles outbreak. 

“We applaud the fortitude of legislators in standing up to opposition from religious groups and vaccine skeptics who claim that vaccination laws infringe on religious and constitutional rights,” said Sally Greenberg, the League’s executive director. As the outbreak of measles in 2019 hits record highs for an illness that is totally preventable through vaccination, New York joins the states of Arizona, California, Mississippi, Maine, and West Virginia in banning religious exemptions.

The current measles outbreak has spread to 28 states, with more than 1,000 cases in total, the highest number since 1992, when more than 2,000 cases were recorded. Highly contagious, measles can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The New York legislators withstood opposition from angry opponents—many with young children and infants—who invoked the will of God and their rights as parents. The measure in the New York State Assembly passed, 77 to 53 and State Senate approved the bill, 36-26. Governor Andrew Cuomo bravely signed the legislation moments after it passed the Senate, saying that vaccines “are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe.” 

“Measles is a highly contagious and dangerous illness, especially for children who are too young to be vaccinated or those who cannot, for health reasons or compromised immune systems, be vaccinated,” said Nissa Shaffi, health policy associate for NCL.

“The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is an extremely safe and effective public health measure that protects the entire community, especially children who are too young to receive vaccinations and rely on the general population for protection against debilitating diseases,” said Shaffi.

Religious reasons or personal preferences cannot be an excuse for exposing whole communities to totally preventable illnesses–and even death–when vaccines provide extremely safe and effective protections for all citizens. The New York Legislature made the absolute right decision in standing up to ignorance and misinformation spread by anti-vaccination forces,” said Greenberg.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.