SENATE, No. 1759

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED MARCH 5, 2012

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator† LORETTA WEINBERG

District 37 (Bergen)

Senator† JOSEPH F. VITALE

District 19 (Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Clarifies statutory exemptions from mandatory immunizations for students.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning exemptions from mandatory immunizations for students and amending P.L.1974, c.150, P.L.2002, c.58, and P.L.2003, c.284.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† Section 6 of P.L.1974, c.150 (C.26:1A-9.1) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 6.††† a.† Provisions in the State Sanitary Code in implementation of [this act] P.L.1947, c.177 (C.26:1A-1 et seq.), or provisions otherwise set forth in statute or regulation, which require the immunization of students at an elementary or secondary school or an institution of higher education, shall provide for an exemption [for pupils] from such mandatory immunization [if the parent or guardian of the pupil objects thereto in a written statement signed by the parent or guardian upon the ground that the proposed immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupil's religious rights.† This exemption] based upon one of the following:

†††† (1)†† a written statement submitted to the elementary or secondary school or the institution of higher education, as applicable, by a licensed physician indicating that the vaccine is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time and the reasons for the medical contraindication, based upon valid medical reasons as determined by regulation of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, which shall exempt the student from the vaccination for the stated period of time; or

†††† (2)†† documentation, as set forth in subsection b. of this section, which is submitted to the elementary or secondary school or the institution of higher education, as applicable, by the student, or the student's parent or guardian if the student is a minor, explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student, or the parent or guardian, as appropriate; except that:† a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination shall not be sufficient for an exemption on religious grounds; and an exemption on religious grounds may be suspended by the [State] Commissioner of Health and Senior Services during the existence of an emergency as determined by the [State Commissioner of Health] commissioner.

†††† b.††† The documentation required pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection a. of this section shall include the following:

†††† (1)†† a written statement, which shall be notarized, signed, and sworn by the person submitting the statement, and which shall include:

†††† (a)†† an explanation of the nature of the personís religious tenet or practice that is implicated by the vaccination and how administration of the vaccine would violate, contradict, or otherwise be inconsistent with that tenet or practice;

†††† (b)†† information that indicates that the religious tenet or practice is consistently held by the person, which may include, but need not be limited to, expression of the personís intent to decline any vaccination;

†††† (c)†† a statement that the religious tenet or practice is not solely an expression of that personís:

†††† (i)††† political, sociological, philosophical, or moral views; or

†††† (ii)†† concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccination; and

†††† (d)†† a statement that the person understands the risks and benefits of vaccination to the student and the public health and acknowledges that the student may be excluded from attendance at the studentís school or institution of higher education, as applicable, in the event of the occurrence of a communicable disease or condition or threat of a communicable disease or condition, which in the opinion of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services requires such exclusion from attendance of unvaccinated students; and

†††† (2)†† a signed statement from a physician or advanced practice nurse licensed to practice in this State, or another individual as designated by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, that the person has received individual counseling from the physician, advanced practice nurse, or other individual as appropriate, concerning the risks and benefits of vaccination to the student and the public health.

†††† c.†††† An elementary or secondary school or institution of higher education shall not exempt a student from a mandatory immunization unless the student, or the student's parent or guardian if the student is a minor, complies with all of the applicable requirements set forth in subsections a. and b. of this section.

†††† d.††† The Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), shall adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this section; except that, notwithstanding any provision of P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) to the contrary, the commissioner may adopt, immediately upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law, such regulations as the commissioner deems necessary to implement the provisions of this section, which shall be effective for a period not to exceed six months and may thereafter be amended, adopted, or re-adopted by the commissioner in accordance with the requirements of P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.).

(cf: P.L.1974, c.150, s.6)


†††† 2.††† Section 4 of P.L.2002, c.58 (C.18A:61D-10) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 4.††† A student shall not be required to receive a vaccination pursuant to section 2 or 3 of [this act based upon one of the following:

†††† a.†††† a written statement submitted to the secondary school or institution of higher education, as applicable, by a licensed physician indicating that the vaccine is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time and the reasons for the medical contraindication, based upon valid medical reasons as determined by regulation of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, which shall exempt the student from the vaccination for the stated period of time; or

†††† b.††† a written statement submitted to the secondary school or institution of higher education, as applicable, by the student, or the student's parent or guardian if the student is a minor, explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student, or the parent or guardian, as appropriate; except that a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination shall not be sufficient for an exemption on religious grounds] P.L.2002, c.58 (C.18A:61D-9 or C.18A:40-21.1) if the student qualifies for an exemption as provided in section 6 of P.L.1974, c.150 (C.26:1A-9.1).

(cf: P.L.2002, c.58, s.4)

 

†††† 3.††† Section 3 of P.L.2003, c.284 (C.18A:62-15.2) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 3.††† a.† A student shall not be required to receive a vaccination pursuant to subsection a. of section 2 of [this act based upon one of the following:

†††† (1)†† a written statement submitted to the institution of higher education by a licensed physician indicating that the vaccine is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time and the reasons for the medical contraindication, based upon valid medical reasons as determined by regulation of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, which shall exempt the student from the vaccination for the stated period of time; or

†††† (2)†† a written statement submitted to the institution of higher education by the student, or the student's parent or guardian if the student is a minor, explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student, or the parent or guardian, as appropriate; except that a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination shall not be sufficient for an exemption on religious grounds] P.L.2003, c.284 (C.18A:62-15.1) if the student qualifies for an exemption as provided in section 6 of P.L.1974, c.170 (C.26:1A-9.1).

†††† b.††† In the event of an actual or threatened outbreak of meningitis at a public or private institution of higher education in this State, the institution may exclude from attendance a student who has been exempted from the vaccination requirement of this act pursuant to subsection a. of this section, as determined by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.

(cf: P.L.2003, c.284, s.3)

 

†††† 4.††† This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† The purpose of this bill is to provide statutory clarification for the State policy governing exemptions from immunizations of students that are mandated by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services by regulation or otherwise required by law.

†††† The bill stipulates that provisions in the State Sanitary Code, or provisions otherwise set forth in statute or regulation, which require the immunization of students at an elementary or secondary school or an institution of higher education, are to provide for an exemption from such mandatory immunization based upon one of the following:

   a written statement submitted to the elementary or secondary school or the institution of higher education, as applicable, by a licensed physician indicating that the vaccine is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time and the reasons for the medical contraindication, based upon valid medical reasons as determined by regulation of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, which is to exempt the student from the vaccination for the stated period of time; or

   documentation submitted to the elementary or secondary school or the institution of higher education, as applicable, by the student, or the student's parent or guardian if the student is a minor, explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student, or the parent or guardian, as appropriate; except that:† a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination is not sufficient for an exemption on religious grounds; and an exemption on religious grounds may be suspended by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services during the existence of an emergency as determined by the commissioner.

†††† The bill sets forth the specific elements that are required to document that the administration of a vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of a student, or a studentís parent or guardian, as appropriate.† These include the following:

   a written statement, to be notarized, signed, and sworn by the person submitting the statement, and which includes:

†††† -- an explanation of the nature of the personís religious tenet or practice that is implicated by the vaccination and how administration of the vaccine would violate, contradict, or otherwise be inconsistent with that tenet or practice;

†††† -- information that indicates that the religious tenet or practice is consistently held by the person, which may include, but need not be limited to, expression of the personís intent to decline any vaccination;

†††† -- a statement that the religious tenet or practice is not solely an expression of that personís political, sociological, philosophical, or moral views, or concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccination; and

†††† -- a statement that the person understands the risks and benefits of vaccination to the student and the public health and acknowledges that the student may be excluded from attendance at the studentís school or institution of higher education, as applicable, in the event of the occurrence of a communicable disease or condition or threat of a communicable disease or condition, which in the opinion of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services requires such exclusion from attendance of unvaccinated students; and

   a signed statement from a physician licensed to practice in this State, or another individual as designated by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, that the person has received individual counseling from the physician, or other individual as appropriate, concerning the risks and benefits of vaccination to the student and the public health.

†††† The bill prohibits an elementary or secondary school or institution of higher education from exempting a student from a mandatory immunization unless the student, or the student's parent or guardian if the student is a minor, complies with all of the applicable requirements set forth in the bill.

†††† The bill provides the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services with expedited rulemaking authority in order to provide such guidance to school and public health authorities as they will need to implement its provisions on a timely basis. ††††††

†††† The bill incorporates within section 6 of P.L.1974, c.150 (C.26:1A-9.1) the provision for exemptions from mandatory immunizations against hepatitis B for students in high school and at institutions of higher education, which is set forth in section 4 of P.L.2002, c.58 (C.18A:61D-10), and the provision for exemptions from mandatory meningoccocal immunizations for students at institutions of higher education, which is set forth in section 2 of P.L.2003, c.284 (C.18A:62-15.1), so as to statutorily consolidate the provisions governing exemptions from mandatory immunizations of students in elementary and secondary schools and at colleges and universities in New Jersey.† This will provide for a clear and consistent regulatory approach to the issue of permitting exemptions from required vaccinations for all students at any educational level in the State, and will do so in a way that protects the children of New Jersey, and those with whom they come in contact, against serious communicable diseases, while allowing for appropriate exemptions based upon valid medical reasons and genuine religious objections.