It’s not clear whether a bill ending religious exemptions to New Jersey’s immunization rules will eventually be passed in the Senate, but it appears that Gov. Phil Murphy is open to signing the bill if it reaches his desk.

Murphy, asked about the vaccines bill and Monday’s demonstrations at the Statehouse at an unrelated event Tuesday, didn’t specify that he would sign the bill, S2173/A3818. But his language reflected that of the bill’s supporters, not the opponents who view the issue as a matter of religious freedom.

“You saw enormous passion, which at least did not surprise me. Where that goes, again I’m not going to comment on specific bills, but where that goes will be determined,” Murphy said.

“But our administration will continue to make decisions based on protecting the health of our 9 million residents, especially our kids and vulnerable populations,” Murphy said. “We’ll make decisions based on science and facts, and that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

Data compiled by the state Department of Health shows fewer students are receiving all the required vaccinations.

The percentage of fully vaccinated children has declined from 95.3% in 2013-04 to 94.2% in 2018-19.

Over that five-year span, the number of students with religious exemptions has grown from 8,977 to 13,987. That includes 2% of students in public schools and 3.8% in nonpublic schools.

Those do not reflect the total number of students with religious exemptions to vaccination rules because the reports only cover pre-K, kindergarten, first and sixth grades, as well as transfer students. Also, according to the state, some schools do not submit the status reports, though they are required.

A bill that would end religious exemptions and specify rules for medical exemptions to immunization requirements was passed Monday by the Assembly, 45-25 with six votes to abstain. But it wasn't called for a vote in the Senate because it lacked the votes to pass.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, indicated he would try again to post the bill for a vote in the January voting sessions before the two-year legislative session ends Jan. 14.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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