Mass. State Rep files bill to eliminate religious exemption for vaccinations

A week after a second case of measles was diagnosed in Massachusetts, a state representative from Haverhill has filed a bill to do away with the religious exemption for vaccinations.

"Everybody has the right to practice their religious beliefs, but no one has the right to affect another person's child," said Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill.

Currently, children in Massachusetts can opt out of vaccinations if their parents cite a religious reason.

Vargas says the risk is too high and the science is clear. Dr Ari Cohen, the Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Mass. General for Children, agrees.

"The fact you don't vaccinate your child puts somebody else at risk," Dr. Cohen said.

Related: Health officials: Potential exposure to measles in locations in Mass., Maine

Dr. Cohen adds that the anti-vaxer concerns about vaccines being unsafe is unfounded.

"This is a very effective vaccine, it is very safe," he said. "It has been used for many decades."

Rep. Vargas filed his bill on Friday. It would remove the religious exemption for vaccinating school children.

"We're joining a movement across the country," Rep. Vargas said. "There are several states already that have removed religious and philosophical exemptions."

Those states include nearby Maine, the latest to join the movement. California, West Virginia and Mississippi have also removed the exemptions.

Rep. Vargas hopes Massachusetts is next, adding that the number of cases has reached a 25-year high.

So far 981 cases of measles have been reported and there’s no sign of stopping. Dr. Cohen says that's astonishing.

>>>MORE: Number of measles cases in US reaches highest mark in 25 years

"We're talking about 1000 cases this year for a disease we said was eradicated," he said.