The state of New York, facing its worst measles outbreak in over 25 years, has passed a new law to hopefully put a stop to the outbreak. The law eliminates non-medical and religious exemptions from the legally mandated vaccine requirement for children in schools and daycare.
While the law itself cannot stop the virus from harming those it has already infected, it is expected to help prevent more cases from arising.
Vaccinating Religious Freedom
The measles outbreak in New York has mostly affected Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens who claim a religious objection to vaccination. Of the 1,000-plus reported cases nationwide (in 28 different states), approximately 800 are from New York, with a majority stemming from the Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens.
The elimination of religious exemption from vaccination requirements is somewhat controversial as a limit on personal and religious liberty, and New York is joining only a small handful of states who have elimited the exemption (California, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia). However, the risks and dangers that a measles outbreak poses, at least in the New York legislature's view, is a much more compelling issue. Additionally, it is important to note that religious liberty has limits, and those limits tend to be triggered when religious beliefs result in causing harm to others and the community.
Better Than the Alternative
Despite some high-profile opposition to laws tightening the restrictions on obtaining vaccine exemptions in response to recent California legislation, the medical community overwhelmingly supports vaccinations for all but the immunocompromised. The numbers bear this out, as the exceedingly low rates of injuries related to vaccines absolutely pales in comparison to the injuries caused by the conditions the vaccines seek to prevent.
Perhaps as a result of the rarity of vaccine-related injuries, many people don’t even know that there is a federal compensation fund (paid for by vaccine manufacturers) for anyone who has been injured as a result of a vaccine. Interestingly, a large proportion of those claims deal with adults who have pain in the arm or shoulder after getting an injection.