Note: Many states, including my state of Connecticut, are going after religious vaccine exemptions as a way to remove parental medical choice.
ALBANY — With measles outbreaks reported in the Hudson Valley and New York City, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would end the ability of parents to get religious exemptions from requirements that their children be vaccinated.
Critics of the exemptions contend they amount to a loophole that endangers not only the children who don't get vaccinated but also those with whom they come into contact.
"The outbreaks taking place right now in New York underline the importance of making sure that every possible person is vaccinated," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, D-Bronx.
Dinowitz said he believes that many parents who refrain from having their children vaccinated do it because they have been convinced by "discredited" studies that the immunizations can lead to autism or other disabilities. The best way to prevent an outbreak, the lawmaker said, is to minimize the number of people who have not had a measles shot.
The federal Centers for Disease Control says the measles virus is highly contagious. The virus can not only cause a fever and a rash, but infections can also lead to pneumonia and even death. Unvaccinated children are believed to be particularly susceptible.
One anti-vaccine activist, Patricia Finn, a Rockland County lawyer who has been involved in legal challenges to mandatory immunizations, contended that the push to end the religious exemption in New York is part of a "scheme" intended to benefit the pharmaceutical industry.
She said that opponents of the exemptions have embraced the "herd immunity" premise that suggests prevention of an outbreak can occur if at least 97 percent of the population has been vaccinated. "They want to eliminate exemptions to achieve herd immunity but herd immunity doesn't exist," she maintained. "Vaccines can actually spread measles and that is probably what is happening."