N.J. Bill Makes It Harder to Claim Religious Vaccine Exemption

TRENTON (AP/Hamodia) -

New Jersey might change a religious exemption that has allowed nearly 9,000 students to avoid vaccinations last year.

A state Senate committee on Monday voted 5-2 to tighten the rules that Sen. Joseph Vitale says are too easy for parents to use religion as an excuse.

Parents currently must submit a letter stating the vaccines violate their religion.

Under the new rules, a parent would have to submit a notarized letter explaining how the vaccine would violate the nature of their religious tenet or practice. They also would have to submit a letter from a doctor that they received counseling about the risks and benefits of vaccinations.

The statement also most show the tenet “is consistently held by the person,” and is not merely “an expression of that person’s political, sociological, philosophical or moral views, or concerns related to the safety of efficacy of the vaccination.”

Drew Harris, program director for Health Policy at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, praised the bill.

“There has been a four-fold increase [in religious exemptions] since the regulations changed. Has there been a four-fold change of religiosity in New Jersey?” Harris said. “This is asking people to be honest, and to assure the honesty of their beliefs.”

The bill was introduced in January as a measles outbreak swept across the nation, including two confirmed cases in New Jersey.