From left, state Senators Brad Hoylman and David Carlucci and Assemblymember Jeremy Dinowitz stand next to King Singh, 5, who has a
compromised immune system, making it dangerous for him to be exposed other kids who are unvaccinated.
Push to end measles religious outs
BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH
Lawmakers gathered with young cancer survivors
at 250 Broadway to put a face to a bill
that would end nonmedical exemptions from
vaccinations for schoolchildren.
“We stand here together to defend our right to
have safe schools for all children,” said state Senator
Brad Hoylman. He was joined by fellow state
Senator David Carlucci and Assemblymember Jeremy
According to the state’s public health law, children
are required to be vaccinated against measles
and other diseases before entering school unless
their parents have “genuine and sincere religious
beliefs” that are contrary to the requirement. The
bill would remove that exception, mandating that
all children entering New York schools be vaccinated,
barring a medical reason.
The push for the legislation comes in response
to recent measles outbreaks in Brooklyn and Rockland
Both outbreaks occurred in predominantly ultra-
Orthodox Jewish communities that have been reluctant
to vaccinate their children, in part due to
“anti-vaxxer” propaganda claiming the vaccines
cause autism and are made from aborted fetal cells,
according to The New York Times.
Since last September, there have been 535 confi
rmed cases of measles in New York City and 310
confi rmed cases elsewhere in the state.
“It might not seem scary to you guys but it’s terrifying
to us,” said Teela Wyman, speaking through
an orange face mask. The 26-year-old law student
has a compromised immune system after receiving
treatment for stage-four lymphoma.
Before her, Toby Pannone, 15, a stage-four neuroblastoma
survivor; Christopher Bidelspach, 12, a
stage-four heptablastoma survivor and lifelong user
of immunosuppressants; and King Singh, 5, currently
in treatment for high-risk leukemia, spoke of
their fears of going to schools where all students
Due to that fear, King’s parents have chosen to
home-school him and his two older siblings.
“We don’t want to put him in an environment
where he can basically die from picking up something
that is preventable,” said Michael Singh,
According to the Centers for Disease Control,
for people with uncompromised immune systems,
the measles is a respiratory disease that can cause
fever and a rash — although serious complications,
like pneumonia, brain swelling and deafness, can
PHOTO BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH
occur. In some cases, however, the disease can be
Those most at risk for death and complications
are children under age 5, pregnant women and
those with compromised immune systems.
During the press conference, there was a small
but loud counterprotest outside the building.
“This is an attack on religion and freedom,” said
Stefanie Miahiras, a Bronx mother who is against
the bill. In fact, Miahiras believes the vaccine gave
But even though some charge the bill infringes
on First Amendment rights, the legislators don’t believe
that allows anyone to put children at risk.
With less than two weeks left in the legislative
session, the lawmakers were hopeful the bill would
pass both houses — and that as soon as the Legislature
passed it, the governor would sign off on it.
New York would be added to the list of states banning
California did away with a religious exemption
after a measles outbreak at Disneyland infected 131
people in 2014 and 2015. As a result, the state’s
vaccination rate rose from 90 percent to 95 percent.
Just last week Maine also ended nonmedical
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