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Amid Measles Outbreak, New York Ends Religious Exemptions for Vaccines

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New York eliminated the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren Thursday, as the nation’s worst measles outbreak in decades prompts states to reconsider giving parents ways to opt out of immunization rules

The Democrat-led Senate and Assembly voted Thursday to repeal the exemption, which allows parents to cite religious beliefs to forego getting their child the vaccines required for school enrollment.

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The measles outbreak that prompted the new law is actually easing. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared an end to the measles outbreak in New York City, its epicenter. Since the start of the outbreak in October 2018, there have been 654 measles cases in the city and 414 in other parts of the state, where transmission has also slowed. The large majority of cases have involved unvaccinated children in Hasidic Jewish communities, where immunization rates were sometimes far lower than the state average of 96 percent

Wide-scale vaccination campaigns have helped lift those rates. But health officials warned on Tuesday that as school begins the highly contagious disease could easily return, particularly if vaccination rates drop again.

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Vaccination campaigns have led to the elimination of small pox all over the world. Some diseases such as polio and measles still exist in some parts of the third world countries. Immunizing as many people as possible creates the herd immunity which intern protects people who are not immunized. Children below two months can not be immunized and mostly they rely on herd immunity for protection. (Holk, Bonnie C. Minsky and Lisa

2002). Vaccinations also protect the lives of people in the society and they have a right to this protection. Even though people argue that they have a right to decide what is good for them and their children, the rights of the whole society are important and the government has the obligation to ensure that all individuals in the society are protected from preventable diseases (Neustaedter, Randall, 2002).

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As has been noted, vaccines save lives. We are in the midst of a measles epidemic which is completely preventable given proper immunizations

The fact that New York State has the overwhelming majority of these measles cases is shameful, and we must step up to protect New Yorkers' health.

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Alls, Cassandra. Vaccine Information Resource Guide: A Parent's Discovery. New York: Lulu.com, 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Vaccination Requirements. 30 September 2011. 4 May 2012 .

Holk, Bonnie C. Minsky and Lisa. Our Children's Health: America's Kids in Nutritional Crisis and What We Can Do to Help Them. California: Vital Health Publishing, 2002.

Neustaedter, Randall. The Vaccine Guide: Risks and Benefits for Children and Adults. Canada: North Atlantic Books, 2002.

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