Vaccination Bill Aimed At Religious Exemption Fails To Pass
TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey's lawmakers failed to pass a bill removing religious exemption from mandatory immunizations for school children in the state.
The bill S-2173 died on Monday night in Trenton.
Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney maintained that science, not protesters, would eventually emerge victorious.
“It’s going to get done,” Sweeney, a Democrat, said, repeating a vow he had made since last month when a far more sweeping version of the bill passed in the Assembly but failed to win enough support in the Senate. Democrats control both chambers.
The bill would have ended a policy that allows parents in New Jersey to cite religious beliefs as the reason their children have not been immunized, without affecting the child’s ability to be enrolled in school.
Doctors and public health experts had said the original bill was needed to prevent the kind of measles outbreak that occurred in the region last year. They emphasized that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines are safe and effective.
For now, anti-vaccination bill protests who showed up as vocal droves throughout the bill's progression are elated but the fight is far from over.
Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat and a sponsor of the legislation, said that the Senate would immediately reintroduce a new version of the bill and begin the process anew. This time, she said, the Legislature might hold public hearings with doctors and scientists to debunk opponents’ concerns.
“The science is settled on this,” Weinberg said.
In its original form, the bill would have included all students enrolled in any school or college, public or private, making it one of the most sweeping among the several states that have voted to end religious exemptions to immunization. Only medical exemptions from vaccines would have been permitted at most schools and day care centers.
The last-minute changes included in the bill gave private schools and day care centers in the Garden State the freedom to accept children who are not vaccinated, provided they make public a count of how many students do not have their shots.
But that change was enough to outrage Democratic lawmakers who felt the amendment showed favoritism and unchecked privilege.
So with the pulling of support, the bill that reportedly once had enough votes to pass is just a thing of the past...until Tuesday, when lawmakers will instead reintroduce it to begin a new legislative session.