June 27, 2019: State Advocacy Update


On June 13, New York became the latest state to enact legislation eliminating non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements. Previously, parents in New York could cite religious objections in order to opt out of immunization requirements for school enrollment.

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The new law contains provisions that allow school age children who have begun the immunization process to attend school in Fall 2019 and the law becomes fully effective in June 2020. The Medical Society of the State of New York organized and led a group of 33 specialty societies, patient and public health advocates to support the bill.

New York is the third state to limit non-medical vaccine exemptions this year. In May, with strong support from the Maine Medical Association, Maine enacted a law to eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccinations. Similarly, the Washington State Medical Association successfully advocated to strengthen Washington's vaccine laws, barring personal and philosophical objection to the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. These states follow California, which eliminated non-medical exemptions in 2015, and Mississippi and West Virginia, which have both disallowed non-medical exemptions for decades.

The AMA has long-supported eliminating all non-medical exemptions from required childhood vaccines and supported the legislation in Maine (PDF), New York (PDF) and Washington (PDF).

In addition the AMA joined a sign-on letter (PDF) to Congress on June 7 in support of the Vaccine Awareness Campaign to Champion Immunization Nationally and Enhance Safety (VACCINES) Act of 2019 (H.R. 2862). The bill authorizes the development of a national vaccination rate surveillance system at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and allows data collected to be used to identify communities with low vaccination utilization or where vaccine misinformation may be targeted. It authorizes research grants to better understand vaccine hesitancy, attitudes towards vaccines, and develop strategies to address nonadherence to the recommended use of vaccines. Additionally, the bill authorizes an evidence-based public awareness campaign on the importance of vaccinations that would aim to increase vaccination rates and can be targeted at communities that have particularly low vaccination levels.