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Measles Outbreak: N.Y. Eliminates Religious Exemptions for Vaccinations

The move comes while the United States is experiencing its worst outbreak of measles in 25 years

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In this March 27, 2019 file photo, a woman receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., north of New York City. VOA

New York is the latest state where parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate children on religious grounds.

Both houses of the New York State Assembly passed the measure Thursday and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it immediately.

The move comes while the United States is experiencing its worst outbreak of measles in 25 years.

Parents in New York have up to 30 days to get their children immunized against contagious diseases such as measles, or they would be barred from school.

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New York is the latest state where parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate children on religious grounds. Pixabay

Some parents shouted curses and booed as state lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, calling it a violation of religious freedom.

“People came to this country to get away from exactly this kind of stuff,” a member of a Russian Orthodox Church said.

But the bill’s sponsor said he is not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, or the Koran commanding that children not get vaccinated.

“If you choose not to vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children…then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school,” Bronx assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said.

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Most cases of measles in New York are in New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community.

Governor Cuomo said he “understands freedom of religion. I have heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”

Health officials in the United States and around the world are fighting widely spread disinformation that vaccines against measles and other diseases cause autism.

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Both houses of the New York State Assembly passed the measure Thursday. Pixabay

They call the global anti-vaccination campaign a major threat to public health.

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Some of the New York lawmakers say some parents who believe vaccines are harmful may be using freedom of religion as an excuse not to get shots for their children. (VOA)

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World’s Largest Measles Outbreak Kills More than 4,000 People in Congo this Year

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018

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FILE - A child is immunized against measles at a clinic in eastern Congo, Nov. 13, 2008. VOA

More than 4,000 people have died in Congo this year in the world’s largest measles outbreak, the United Nations children’s agency said Wednesday.

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018.

Since January, more than 200,000 cases of measles have been reported across Congo, UNICEF said. More than 140,000 involve children under 5, who also make up nearly 90 percent of deaths.

“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said the UNICEF country representative, Edouard Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators, and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”

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FILE – Health workers wearing protective gear check on a patient isolated in a plastic cube at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019. VOA

Health officials are facing many of the same challenges in the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that has killed more than 2,000 people. Multiple armed groups have been fighting over the mineral-rich land for decades and threatening residents. The insecurity has led to mistrust of authorities, including health workers.

UNICEF said health workers were rushing additional medical kits to help care for more than 110,000 people infected with the measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. More than 1.4 million children have been vaccinated this year.

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The U.N. agency said Congo’s government will launch a vaccination campaign at the end of October to make sure children in every province are vaccinated. (VOA)