Document Type



Vaccines are one of the top ten public health interventions of the twentieth century, lengthening lifespans and drastically reducing the burden of infectious disease in many nations. Childhood immunizations in particular have significantly impacted rates of infant and child mortality and morbidity, and nearly eliminated the presence of diseases like measles in the United States. Unfortunately, parents are increasingly seeking “religious” exemptions for mandatory childhood immunizations, which threatens to lead to a resurgence in these diseases, impacting children and schools.

This Note discusses New York’s repeal of the religious exemption from its public health code in 2019. Passed in response to one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades, this measure reignited tension between those seeking personal and religious liberty, and those seeking safe and healthy school environments. This Note examines this law throughout its history and in relation to similar measures seen in other states and concludes that public health law has the authority to challenge personal liberty when health and safety are at stake.