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Measles Outbreak: Lawmakers Look To End Religious Exemptions To Vaccinations

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There's a growing concern over measles across the nation however, the vast majority of cases are centered in the New York area - and they're spreading. Now, there's a new call to end the exemptions - and the excuses - some parents are using to keep children away from vaccinations.

"Two children were in the hospital because of this. No child should have to become ill from a disease we can easily prevent," Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler said. 

On the same day it was discovered that eight kids in Westchester County are sick with measles, Dr. Amler stressed: children are in jeopardy and there's an easy way to change that, if parents will listen.

"Make sure you're vaccinated," Amler urged.

MORE: Measles Outbreak Spreads To Westchester County Unvaccinated Children

The infected children in northern Westchester's Kasho and Nitra communities were not vaccinated. They range in age from six months to 14 years-old and include six siblings from one family.

All likely contracted the disease while visiting ultra-orthodox communities in Rockland County and Brooklyn, where there are hundreds of cases.


  • New York City: 285 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens
  • Elsewhere In New York: 176 in Rockland County, 17 in Orange County, 8 in Westchester County and 2 in Sullivan County
  • In New Jersey: 4 in Monmouth County and 7 in Ocean County

Health officials warn that wrong information and resistance to modern medicine is helping to spread the highly-contagious illness.

"It's my religious belief. I will never put something into my child to alter their immune system," one parent declared.

New York does allow schools to grant religious exemption to vaccines. A "written and signed statement from the parent or guardian saying they object because of sincere and genuine religious beliefs," is permitted under state law.

Last school year, more than 26,000 students had religious exemptions to one or more immunizations required by schools.

"A child may die because of this religious exemption," Sen. Brad Hoylman warned.

Sen. Holyman is one of a number of lawmakers pushing to get rid of non-medical waivers.

WEB EXTRA - Sen. Brad Hoylman explains his bill ending non-medical exemptions to vaccination:

"The bill I'm sponsoring will end all non-medical exemptions, so we would close that loophole… This loophole is being exploited by people misled by anti-vaxxers," Hoylman charged.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office won't say whether he supports the bill, as he carefully toed the line on the radio this week.

"It's a serious public health concern, but it's also a serious first amendment issue… It is gonna be a constitutional, legal question," Cuomo cautiously stated.

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