As more businesses, schools and government agencies impose COVID vaccination requirements, the Republican candidate for New Jersey governor wants more exemptions.

Speaking during a Facebook live event hosted by the NJ Public Health Innovation PAC, Jack Ciattarelli said he has always been about medical freedom. "I don't think government has any right to tell any individual they have to take a vaccine or a medicine." The organization Ciattarelli was speaking to is largely against mandatory vaccinations.

Ciattarelli has said he is vaccinated and has encouraged other to get the shot, but a spokeswoman for his campaign told NJ.com he supports personal and parental choice.

If elected, the GOP candidate says he would increase the number of exemptions to mandatory vaccinations, including COVID, but also for other inoculations like mumps and measles. Ciattarelli also promised to create an ombudsman who would help advocate for parental rights when it comes to having kids vaccinated.

The mandatory vaccination issue has been a hot topic in Trenton in recent years. Efforts to remove religious exemptions ultimately failed, and drew hundreds to the State House in protest.

Ciattarelli says not only does he support a religious exemption, but would also add what he calls a "philosophical exemption." Essentially it would allow parents to opt out of mandatory school vaccinations for any reason.

As COVID cases rise in New Jersey and efforts to coerce the unvaccinated into getting a shot increases, the issue is likely going to be a key factor in the race for governor. Incumbent Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has been pressing hard for more vaccinations and may be forced to impose new restrictions by the fall as cases increase. The public remains deeply divided over vaccinations, masks, mandates and back-to-school protocols.

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