A243, which provides for conscientious exemptions to mandatory immunizations, was heard Monday in the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee but no vote was taken.
Assemblywoman Charlotte Vanderwalk, (R-39), Westwood, a primary sponsor, argued for the bill. She said there are parents who recognize that their children “may” be at risk in certain situations, but can’t get an exemption, and that the danger of widespread epidemics is not what it once was.
“It will not put other people at risk,’’ she said in support of the legislation.
A coalition of activists and parents argued in support of the bill as well, stating their position as “pro-health” but “pro-choice” as well.
They argued that New Jersey, the so-called “nation’s medicine cabinet,’’ home to numerous pharmaceutical companies, is the most heavily vaccinated state.
The bill also resonates with parents of autistic children who are concerned about the effects of vaccinations.
Committee Chairman Herb Conaway, (D-7), Delran, encountered conflicts with some of the bill supporters whose testimony began to exceed the 90-second limit he had placed due to the number of people who wanted to be heard.
Conaway also declined a request from a witness to recuse himself from the vote. Another witness accused him of profiting from vaccines, which Conaway said, “is simply not a correct statement.”
In support of the bill, Dr. Deborah Ginsburg talked about the judgment of physicians being undermined by the “all or nothing” aspect of vaccination approvals.
Bill opponents, who also were held to the testimony time limit, argued that vaccinations are a social compact entered into to benefit society.
Dr. Peter Wenger, of Newark, said state laws mandating vaccinations have greatly contributed to bringing diseases under control and said the more exemptions, the greater the risk to society.
Assemblyman Vincent Polistina, (R-2), Northfield, said no one is opposed totally to vaccines, but there needs to be concern over the amount of drugs being put into kids.
Conaway said lawmakers often are called upon to make decisions about things best left to science. He called an increase in exemptions “a recipe for chaos,” and referenced the eradication of polio through vaccines.
He said they would hold the bill because of the number of issues raised by people on the committee.