A coalition of medical professionals went to Albany on Monday to urge that both houses of the state legislature pass a bill that would mandate vaccinations for children and eliminate religious exemptions that currently exist.
"This is absolutely unprecedented. We have had over 700 cases nationwide, over 400 of which are in New York," pediatrician Shetal Shah of Boston's Children Hospital said. "So New York really is the tip of the spear."
In the state Assembly, the legislation has failed to make it out of the health committee. The bill’s sponsor has faced opposition from at least four fellow Democrats in moving it forward.
"I think it's bizarre," Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. "There are some skeptics out there. A lot of it was caused by a debunked study, from over 20 years ago, in fact, that links vaccines with autism, which is just not the case."
One of those skeptics is Long Island Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, who said her office has received more than 200 calls in opposition to the bill.
"Many individuals and community members have expressed concerns about vaccinations; whether it's a parent's choice, consequences of getting vaccinated on public health," the Valley Stream lawmaker said. "We are having a holistic conversation on what's best for all New York."
Other members have concerns on First Amendment grounds.
"I also think free exercise of religion is pretty important," said Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who is the chair of the Assembly Health Committee. "So we are working out that issue."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he would like to see the bill move forward. "I personally think the measles issue is a health crisis and needs to be dealt with," he said.
"Yeah, I don't know that it is stalled. I know that it's actively being considered, and I think it should be," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said when asked about the bill at an unrelated event earlier in the day. "I understand people's freedom of religion. I also understand the concerns of public health. And I think, in this situation, the public health concerns override the religious issues that are posed."
The state Senate is in a similar position: the bill has stalled in the health committee. One insider told us Monday that there was no update. However, one of the bill's sponsors said he was confident they have the votes to pass it in the Senate should the bill come to the floor.
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