This version replaces a previous version of the story, adding comments from the town’s business administrator further clarifying the governing body’s position.
BERKELEY – The Township Council wants a bill eliminating religious exemptions to vaccines to be stopped. However, some points of the bill have to be clarified.
This bill would impact the School Sanitary Code. It impacts all ages of school children, from child care to higher education, and public as well as private schools. Most schools by law require children attending to be vaccinated against several potentially fatal diseases.
Currently, a family can claim a religious exemption to prevent getting vaccinations. This bill would get rid of that exemption.
Vaccinations would still be held off if there is a medical reason, but that medical reason has to come in writing from a medical professional, the bill stated. There is a document that has to be filled out by certain kinds of licensed medical professionals, and the specific reason must be given as to why the vaccine would be harmful.
“My phone’s been ringing off the hook” about this legislation, Mayor Carmen Amato said.
Parents are arguing that this is an example of governmental overreach, and the town’s governing body agreed.
One of the problems the mayor and council had with this bill is that they said it would allow school nurses to give vaccines without parental consent. However, that language does not exist in the Senate or Assembly versions of the bill. A representative from Senator Loretta Weinberg’s office confirmed that school nurses would not be administering vaccines under this bill. Weinberg is one of the bill’s sponsors.
After an initial version of this article appeared online, Business Administrator John Camera stated that some members of the governing body mixed up the bill with a bill in another state that would propose school nurses give vaccinations without consent.
“We are not denying science or advocating putting children at risk,” he said. “We are concerned with the constitutional rights of all New Jersey residents whether: they are in favor of having their children receive all required vaccines on the recommended timelines, they would rather choose only certain vaccines, they prefer to spread out the dosages or, they choose not to have any, they should have the right to make those medical choices. The argument here is about government overreaching to dictate medical choices which should be left to individual adults and parents of minor children. Senator Weinberg is simply using a scare tactic in an attempt to continue to take away more constitutional rights of New Jersey residents.”
The New Jersey bill passed in the Assembly but the Senate canceled a vote when it was clear that it didn’t have enough to pass.
Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney told The New York Times that the bill will come back when there’s more support.
Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen), one of the sponsors, said prior to the bill’s vote that “the constitution tasks us with promoting the general welfare and therefore, we cannot let unsubstantiated fears endanger the public, and especially not our classrooms. There is no exemption for drunk driving or wearing a seat belt, there should not be an exemption from a patently safe vaccine that, if not taken, puts the health and wellbeing of our children at risk.”
An earlier version of the bill only made parents clarify the religious reason for declining a vaccination, stating the reason can’t be “political, sociological, philosophical, or moral views; or concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccination.” That version would have made parents specify the exact tenet of their religion that is against vaccinations. The current version, however, eliminates all religious exemptions.