Written by Don Byrd

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill repealing the state’s religious exemption from vaccination requirements. The move comes in response to this year’s measles outbreak, which has drawn attention to the allowances in the law for children to remain unvaccinated. As NPR reports, the new law removes all nonmedical exemptions from the requirements for school children to be vaccinated.

Cuomo in a statement explained his thought process in weighing the religious liberty concerns:

“The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. 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,” Governor Cuomo said.”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.” 

You can read the Bill here.

As I posted in April, several other states are also rethinking their exemption regime in light of the measles outbreak.

For more on the topic of vaccinations and religious objections, see a 2015 column from BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman during a religious liberty controversy that year surrounding a measles outbreak. Hollman emphasized that when it comes to the health of children, the government’s interest is very strong.  “Religious liberty,” she wrote, “does not require granting religious exemptions to immunization laws or similar interests that are required for public health and safety.”