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At the New Jersey statehouse Thursday, hundreds of angry anti-vaxxers packed into a hearing room to demand their voices be heard. It was the wrong hearing room, but they demanded to be heard anyway, because this is America.

The crowd wanted to express their opposition to a bill that would eliminate the state's religious exemption for vaccine requirements, but they somehow ended up in a room where a completely unrelated hearing for New Jersey Transit was scheduled. And no, they weren't going anywhere -- just like ambulances in Fort Lee.

Gosh, you mean to say that even when they were informed of the facts and advised that if they wanted to achieve their aims, they should literally change where they stood, they refused to listen? Seems like that's very on-brand. Good for them, refusing to be told how to live their lives by a bunch of so-called "experts" and "authorities."


New Jersey had a couple of nasty measles outbreaks in 2018-2019, with a total of 45 confirmed cases, and the pro-let-your-kids-get-preventable-diseases movement continues to make inroads in the state.

Nearly 14,000 children — 2.6% of New Jersey's school-age population — currently have religious exemptions to vaccines for diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox and polio. That's more than six times what it was a decade ago, and the number climbs each year.

The actual hearing of the state Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee was also packed with parents who worried the oppressive government would take away their religious freedom, or at least require their kids be vaccinated to attend school. The bill, S2173/A3818, would make New Jersey the sixth state to eliminate religious or "personal belief" exemptions for mandatory vaccinations, while leaving in place exemptions based solely on medical reasons -- children undergoing chemo, for instance, need to rely on their friends to be vaccinated for them. That's currently 1,137 schoolchildren who have medical exemptions and would not be affected by the new legislation, except for how they could attend school with some confidence that they would be protected by the "herd immunity" of all their vaccinated classmates.

During the hearing the panel heard from physicians who explained why eliminating the exemption was a matter of good public health policy.

Dr. Alan Weller, president of the 1,700-member New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, testified that "vaccine safety is settled science."

"This bill is about keeping our schools safe," Weller said. While vaccines must be mandatory for school attendance, he said, the law does not abridge religious freedom, because parents can still choose not to vaccinate their children, who would be excluded from school.

Wayne Yankus, a Mahwah resident and physician for two Bergen County school districts, said the children in his practice who have leukemia would face "certain death" if their classmates were not adequately vaccinated and exposed them to measles or other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Under current law, Yankus said, some parents may use the "mask of religion" to seek an exemption when their objections are personal.

A number of those testifying against the bill presented their little children as props, including one little second-grade girl who testified that she would be "very sad" if she were deprived of the opportunity to be a disease vector putting her classmates at risk of serious illness.

"I love God with my whole heart. He made our immune systems perfect," said the seven-year-old. "I take Vitamin D and I also eat healthy food like veggies and organic food. I do not have any diseases."

Despite that compelling scientific evidence, the committee voted 6-4 to send the bill to the full state Senate.

Before the hearing, the crowd that did make it into the right hearing room recited the "Serenity Prayer," which has a hilarious line about having the wisdom to know the difference between what you can reasonably change in your life, and the Lord's Prayer, which asks God to forgive people for their sins against others, like condemning children to preventable and potentially deadly illnesses.

As for the folks that remained in the NJ Transit hearing even after it got underway, they were treated to a rousing debate on the need to fund public transport beyond just fares collected from bus and train riders, and a recommendation to expand the use of green energy in the state's transit future.

It doesn't appear anyone objected that electric buses cause cancer and autism, but give 'em time.

[Daniel Munoz on Twitter / Brandy Zadrozny on Twitter / NJ.com / NorthJersey.com / Newsweek]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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