Measles outbreak prompts push to end vaccination exemptions in New York

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The current measles outbreak in a number of communities has prompted a New York state lawmaker to call for an end to non-medical exemptions for vaccinating against the disease.

State Senator Brad Hoylman joined parents and their immuno-compromised children who they say are threatened by the ongoing measles epidemic.

Hoylman said these children, whose bodies have more difficulty fighting off diseases such as measles, are a primary reason to end non-medical vaccination exemptions.

From 5-year-old King Singh, who has leukemia, to 26-year-old lymphoma survivor Teela Wyman, four of those students present say they have trouble attending schools because of the threat that is posed by measles.

"We don't want to put him into an environment where he can pick up something like measles and suffer the consequences," dad Michael Singh said.

Advocates are urging the legislature to pass a bill that would end non-medical exemptions in New York.

"My immune system was not strong enough to protect me from a cold, so someone with the flu or strep throat can make me many times more sick than normal and endanger my life," neuroblastoma survivor Toby Pannone said.

Wyman wants to attend law school.

"We're working so hard to be normal people," she said. "This is an extra complexity that may not seem scary to you guys, but it is terrifying to us."

The measure is currently awaiting votes in both houses of the State Legislature.

"The safety of these young people is paramount as well as the right for parents to send their kids to a school or day care center of their choice," Hoylman said.

Still, some protested the legislation as an affront to freedom of religion and personal choice.

"I don't agree with an attack on religion and First Amendment rights and civil rights of human beings," one demonstrator said.

U.S. health officials say the national tally has already eclipsed the total for any full year since 1994, when 963 cases were reported. There have been no fatalities during the current outbreak, and only three measles-related deaths in the past two decades.

Most of the cases have been in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County.

For most people, measles is not life-threatening. The most common symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. However, a very small fraction of people can suffer complications like pneumonia.

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