S-1759 Senate Hearing Summary - On Thursday, September 20, representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter (AAP/NJ), home of the co-led New Jersey Immunization Network (NJIN), testified in front of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee in support for legislation that would strengthen New Jersey’s immunization exemption policy.
The bill, S-1759, sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D- Bergen) and Sen. Joseph Vitale (D- Middlesex), would provide statutory clarification for the State policy that governs exemptions from mandatory student immunizations.
Those opposed to the bill testified that the burden it would place on parents was “too high” and that that strict criterion for exemption was a violation of parental autonomy and religious freedom.
Among those present to testify in support of the bill were AAP/NJ members Wayne Yankus, MD, Steve Rice, MD and Howard Britt, MD. Dr. Yankus discussed the importance of herd immunity and noted that, “a choice not to get a vaccine means that that individual and those around him/her are more at risk for disease." In his testimony, Dr. Britt provided accurate epidemiological information to counter concerns regarding the efficacy of vaccines.
In addition to the spoken testimonies, AAP/NJ President Meg Fisher, MD and Larry Frenkel, MD sent a letter, on behalf of AAP/NJ, to the each member of the committee in support of the legislation. The letter highlighted the, “irrefutable evidence that vaccines are the most significant—and effective— public health intervention of the past 100 years.” But that the “unyielding assault on immunization mandates in New Jersey,” threatens the safety of everyone across the state, especially the most vulnerable among us. Lastly, the letter acknowledged that while parents have the right and obligation to make their own decisions with respect to their child’s health care, that right is not unlimited; “existing law and regulation recognize that parents must not neglect their children by failing to provide medically necessary care. Vaccination is medically necessary care.” The letter concluded by urging the committee to, “act in the best interest of all of the State’s residents and pass this legislation.”
After hearing nearly 3 hours of testimony, the Assembly voted 6-2 to send the bill to the whole Senate for a floor vote.