The majority of New York voters want to end religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations as the country battles a historic measles outbreak that has hit the state harder than any other, according to a recent poll.
The Siena College Research Institute on Monday released data showing that 84% of New Yorkers polled favored ending the exception. This percentage has risen by 6 points since April, the polling institute, based in New York, said.
“New Yorkers overwhelmingly support legislation requiring parents to vaccinate their children regardless of religious beliefs. More than three-quarters of voters from every party and region support it,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said.
New York state has been dealing with the largest measles outbreak in the country. As of last week, there had been 259 confirmed cases in Rockland County and 566 confirmed cases in New York City since September, according to health officials.
Nationwide, there have been over 1,000 cases in what federal health officials say is the worst measles outbreak in 25 years.
States require childhood vaccinations for measles and other once-common illnesses, but most allow parents to invoke religious exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There are 16 states that allow exemptions for “personal, moral or other beliefs,” not including Washington state, which recently passed a law to remove personal or philosophical exemptions. That law will go into effect in July.
The measles outbreaks have been linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries where there are outbreaks occurring, including Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines. The extremely contagious virus then spreads amid under-vaccinated communities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
New York City in April declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn where outbreaks have been reported. This declaration enforced measles vaccinations among children and barred unvaccinated children from attending school. Similar emergencies were declared in Rockland County in March and April.
The telephone poll of 812 registered New York voters was conducted over five days last week. The margin of error is 4.1%.