Elected officials from across New York state, including Rockland County -- the epicenter of a measles outbreak -- hailed a new state law that bans non-medical exemptions from vaccinations.
"This is a great step forward in protecting the public health here in New York," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.
At least 924 of the nation's confirmed measles cases have been reported in New York state. More than 20,000 measles/mumps/rubella vaccinations have been given within Rockland County since the outbreak began in October 2018.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Thursday, June 13 ending vaccination exemptions based on religious beliefs to address the widening measles outbreak, the worst the U.S. has experienced in decades.
"Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe," Cuomo said after signing the bill. "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."
Day thanked Cuomo and other state officials for reacting so quickly, adding: "This law should lead to a substantial increase in vaccination rates and to improved protection of our most vulnerable residents; infants, the immunocompromised and those who have legitimate medical issues."
The new law also was welcome news to its co-sponsors in the Senate.
"Vaccines save lives. We cannot allow misinformation based on junk science to fuel anti-vaccine sentiment," said Sen. David Carlucci, who represents Rockland and northern Westchester counties.
Sen. James Skoufis, who represents the Hudson Valley, said, “The clock is ticking, outbreaks are rising, and here in the state Senate, we are doing something about it."
Rockland Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said, “For the past eight months, I have led the Rockland measles outbreak response and witnessed the effects on our community including multiple hospitalizations including ICU admissions and even a premature birth caused by this disease . . . . .This bill will make a world of difference for those who need it the most."
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