New Jersey Vaccine Exemptions

New Jersey offers both a medical exemption (few health conditions qualify) and a religious exemption. Either can be obtained/used to forgo vaccines as a condition for school attendance.

Medical exemption text:

N.J.A.C. 8:57–4.3 provides for exemptions from mandatory immunization(s)
which are medically contraindicated. A written statement shall be submitted to
the school, preschool, or child care center from a physician licensed to
practice medicine or osteopathy or an advanced practice nurse (certified
registered nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist) indicating that an
immunization is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time, and the
reason(s) for the medical contraindication, based upon valid medical reasons
as enumerated by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
or the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines.

Below is the relevant NJ statute explaining the religious exemption – “Immunization of Pupils in School”:

§ 8:57-4.4 Religious exemptions

(a)  Each school, preschool, or child care center shall exempt a child from mandatory immunization if the child’s parent or guardian submits to the school, preschool, or child care center a written, signed statement requesting an exemption, pursuant to the requirements for religiousexemption established at N.J.S.A. 26:1A-9.1, on “the ground that the . . . immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupil’s religious rights.”

1.  The school, preschool, or child care center shall be prohibited from exempting a child from mandatory immunization on the sole basis of a moral or philosophical objection to immunization.
(b)  Religious affiliated schools or child care centers shall have the authority to withhold or grant a religious exemption from the required immunization for pupils entering or attending their institutions without challenge by any secular health authority.
(c)  Each school, preschool, or child care center shall retain a copy of the written statement set forth in (a) above in the child’s immunization record.
(d)  A school, preschool, or child care center may exclude children with religious exemptions from receiving immunizing agents from the school, preschool, or child care center during a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak or threatened outbreak as determined by the Commissioner, Department of Health and Senior Services, or his or her designee.

(e)  As provided by N.J.S.A. 26:4-6, “Any body having control of a school may, on account of the prevalence of any communicable disease, or to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, prohibit the attendance of any teacher or pupil of any school under their control and specify the time during which the teacher or scholar shall remain away from school.”

1.  The Department of Health and Senior Services shall provide guidance to the school on the appropriateness of any such prohibition.
2.  All schools are required to comply with the provisions of N.J.A.C. 8:61-2.1 regarding attendance at school by pupils or adults infected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
(f)  Those children enrolled in school, preschool, or child care centers before September 1, 1991, and who have previously been granted a religious exemption, shall not be required to reapply for a new religious exemption under N.J.A.C. 8:57-4.4(a).

Below is the relevant NJ statute explaining the religious exemption for higher education specifically:

§ 8:57-6.15 Religious exemptions

(a)  A student shall be exempted from mandatory immunization if the student objects thereto in a written statement submitted to the institution, signed by the student or a parent or legal guardian if a minor, explaining how the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with the student’s religious beliefs; except as provided at N.J.A.C. 8:57-6.8(b) and 6.9(f).
(b)  The institution shall keep the student’s statement as part of the student’s immunization record.

(c)  An institution may temporarily exclude a student with a religious exemption from receiving immunizing agents, from classes and from participation in institution-sponsored activities during a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak or threatened outbreak.

1.  The decision to exclude a student with a religious exemption shall be made by the institution in consultation with the Commissioner and the exclusion shall continue until the outbreak is over.

One can utilize an antibody blood titer test to forgo certain vaccines. Holly’s Law permits any individual to use an antibody blood titer test to forgo the second MMR vaccine. If sufficient titers are detected, one can use this information to forgo the second MMR.

See Holly’s Law (further details about it are explained on the Holly’s Law page of our website):

https://nj.gov/health/cd/documents/antibody_titer_law.pdf

One can also utilize an antibody blood titer test to forgo the following:

1) The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, if sufficient titers are detected; or, you can ask your doctor to write a note stating that the individual has had chickenpox

2) The second and/or third doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine, if sufficient titers are shown.

Antibody blood titer tests are easy to obtain, and all doctors should offer them to their patients. Unfortunately, insurance companies may or may not cover antibody titer tests, but it is well worth the minimal expense as a substitute for a potentially dangerous vaccine that could yield significant medical costs (for care, injuries) indefinitely.

See the following for the NJ vaccine requirements, K-12:

https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/imm_requirements/k12-parents.pdf

See the following link for New Jersey vaccination rates as well as exemption rates over the past several years:

http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/imm-status-reports/

New Jersey Legislation

In 2015, a religious exemption “clarification” bill arose in the New Jersey legislatures which sought to make it more difficult to obtain an opt-out from vaccination on religious grounds. We submitted written testimony, gave oral testimony at the Senate and Assembly Health Committee hearings, and met with legislators to educate them. We also hired a lobbyist who aided in preventing the advance of this bill. Below is our oral testimony in opposition to the 2015 proposed bill:

Dear Legislators:

This will be a quick summary of our submitted written testimony.

We are here today to defend the parent’s right to take a religious exemption.  Both sides can give stories of children hurt by the disease and children hurt by the vaccinations, but we are not here to discuss that. We all know that infectious disease can be serious as can vaccine reactions. 

The reason for Bill A1931 is to clarify statutory exemptions from mandatory immunizations for students.   However, the language in the bill is vague, and it leaves the power to unfairly scrutinize the authenticity of each religious exemption. 

Since the argument exists that high vaccination rates prevent outbreaks, we are providing evidence to refute the assertion. The current vaccination rate is around 98% in New Jersey if you do not include the provisional status.  Lumping the provisional status children with the medical and religious exemption children brings the rate to 95.5%.  Provisional status is not an exemption; provisional status is a temporary status. Children are only granted the provisional status if they are in the process of becoming fully compliant with all the vaccination requirements.  As a result, the current immunization rate of around 98% is well above the claimed threshold for vaccine induced herd immunity.  The range varies for each disease, but the overall range is 83-94%.  

Further, there should be a deadline of 30 days for the provisional status exemptions, such as in Texas. Even an examination of the scientific literature concerning cases of disease outbreaks throughout history reveals that high vaccination rates do not preclude disease outbreaks.  Most of the disease outbreaks have occurred in highly vaccinated populations. We have included links to confirm this.

Finally, the problem is not with the 1.7% who takes a religious exemption, instead the burden should be on the pharmaceutical companies who need to improve the efficacy of their product.

  1. The vaccination rate doesn’t determine probability of disease incidence. Most of the disease outbreaks have occurred in highly vaccinated populations. We have included links to scientific medical journal articles to confirm this. This refutes the reason for the bill, because the rate doesn’t determine disease incidence.
  2. Vaccination rate is really 98% rather than 95.5%, but both are above the claimed threshold for vaccine induced immunity; therefore restriction to religious exemption is not necessary. This refutes the reason for the bill, because the rate is higher than stated.
  3. Provisional status is not an exemption and should not be included in the calculation to determine vaccination rate. Texas has a 30 day requirement for families with provisional status.  This refutes the reason for the bill, because the provisional status artificially decreases the vaccination rate.
  4. The bill unfairly scrutinizes the authenticity of each religious exemption, therefore the bill should be opposed.

Thank you for your time.

We succeeded in defeating this bill.

In 2018, this same bill was resurrected. We operated similarly: written and oral testimonies, legislator meetings, and educational mailings to legislator offices. Further, we submitted an extensive legal analysis regarding the constitutionality of the proposed bill to the legislators. The submission included a scientific analysis, discussing the flaws in the assertions underpinning the justification of the bill.

 

Below is our oral testimony in opposition to the same religious exemption restriction bill in 2018:

First, the science must be broached because the putative risk to public health is utilized as the justification for removing religious freedoms.

It must be recognized that infectious disease outbreaks are routinely occurring in fully vaccinated populations throughout the world (corroborated in the medical literature).

Further, there are countless examples of countries with low vaccination coverage rates, yet low disease incidence as well – a supposedly paradoxical situation.

Clearly, there’s much more to infectious disease incidence than vaccination rates.

Moreover, religious denominational stances on vaccination can be entirely disparate from one’s own interpretation of the faith (for example [may be omitted]: the Roman Catholic Church does not explicitly condemn vaccination, but one may construe Biblical Scriptures such that the resultant interpretation is one against vaccines). Questioning the truthfulness or consistency of someone’s religious practice is governmental intrusion into free exercise – this is unconstitutional prohibition.

Finally, the bill raises numerous constitutional issues

First amendment freedom of speech infringement – the section on signed statement from physician regarding the person’s recognition of risks/benefits/effect on public health – the State cannot force someone to agree w/ their opinion; the OLS (office of legislative services) completely ignores this part of the bill.

First amendment free exercise violation – attempts to differentiate religious, moral, philosophical, and safety of vaccines – governmental overreach – moral arguments can be religiously based, one can have a personal interpretation of one’s faith separate from denominational stances.

14th amendment due process violation – assumes all parents are unfit by forcing them to be educated on risks/benefits/public health as a condition of exemption usage.

Voided for vagueness and are unconstitutional – definition of ‘consistently held’ and ‘bona fide religious tenets’ ‘valid medical reason’– how will these determinations be ascertained? Opens up possibility of litigation for constitutional violations.

See our written testimony submitted by Freedom and Ethics Alliances for further analysis.

This bill was once again defeated, and there is no sign of reintroduction as of this notice. Dedicated, informed activism will yield positive results, if: 1) the right information is conveyed; 2) the information is conveyed in the RIGHT way; and, 3) the recipients of the information are sufficiently open-minded, and not willing to relinquish human rights for monetary or political gain.

Here is the actual bill language for the 2018 Assembly version:

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/A4000/3818_I1.HTM

Here is the actual bill language for the 2015 Assembly version:

ftp://www.njleg.state.nj.us/20142015/A2000/1931_I1.HTM

The Senate versions had virtually identical language and are available via the New Jersey legislature website:

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/

error: Content is protected !!