Concerns over the potential spread of measles have summer camps considering whether vaccine exemptions should be allowed for religious or medical reasons.

According to the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey, camps are taking the health concern "very very seriously," and many local health departments are strongly recommending that exemptions to mandatory vaccine policies not be accepted. The association recommends the same thing.

Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher announced Tuesday night that children enrolled in the township's recreation and Youth Center programs must show proof of inoculation against the contagious respiratory disease before they're allowed to join in the summer fun — no exceptions.

In his remarks, the mayor pointed to several articles detailing a "measles epidemic" nationwide and in our region. Measles shots are now required at many camps in New York, where 840 cases have been confirmed since the fall.

"I know that this may fly in the face of people who may have some religious or medical reason not to have their children inoculated, and that's the parent's right to take that position. But our position is, that right is subordinate to our obligation to protect our 800 some-odd youngsters in our programs," Kelaher told New Jersey 101.5.

The state requires that children who wish to participate in camp are up to date with immunizations, unless a medical or religious reason would keep them from doing so. The Department of Health makes site visits and one requirement is that a camp's immunization records are up to date.

"What we are finding is that every single camp, almost without exception, is writing letters and sending emails and talking to camp families, saying we strongly recommend that you come with your immunizations, and if you don't, we want to have a conversation about why that is and what we can do to help persuade you," said Susie Lupert, executive director of the ACA of NY and NJ.

"It's absolutely a huge focus this year," she added.

As of May 22, there are 14 confirmed cases of measles in New Jersey this year, according to the state health department. A dozen of those cases are associated with an outbreak in Ocean County that is now considered "over."

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