As hard as it may be to believe, representing as he does one of the most liberal Democratic constituencies in New York State, but Edgemont’s Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D-Mt. Pleasant), a former resident of Greenburgh, is now the chief — and sole — sponsor of state legislation favored by segments of extreme right-wing and left-wing America that would give parents the right to refuse to have their children vaccinated on “philosophical grounds.”
An Albany-based publication this week said Mr. Abinanti’s position on vaccination was “too dumb to even contemplate” for the vast majority of New York’s legislators and The New York Times said on Saturday that Mr. Abinanti’s position was based on “lunacy.”
Republican presidential aspirants Chris Christie and Rand Paul have recently come under fire for supporting the right of parents to refuse on principle to allow their children to be vaccinated — and both backed off that position in the teeth of criticism from the public health community.
But not so liberal Democrat Abinanti whose insistence on giving parents that right has many party leaders in Greenburgh questioning whether, because his position on this issue is so embarrassing, Mr. Abinanti has enough common sense, good judgment and credibility with the public and fellow legislators to continue representing the Town in Albany.
Mr. Abinanti is a professional politician who was a member of the Greenburgh town board, and then a county legislator before being elevated to the state assembly to replace the much respected and politically powerful assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who retired.
The practice of requiring that schoolchildren be vaccinated against communicable diseases such as polio, measles, whooping cough, rubella, and chicken pox, which began in the middle of the last century, is largely credited with eradicating these diseases in the United States, but the anti-vaxxer movement, as it is known, is being blamed for widespread U.S. outbreaks of these diseases in recent years.
Most states, including New York, currently allow parents to exempt their children from being vaccinated on either medical grounds or religious grounds, but because these exemptions are rarely exercised, the practice of requiring that all other children be vaccinated keeps those children who are not vaccinated from being exposed to these often debilitating and sometimes fatal childhood diseases.
But if Mr. Abinanti were to get his way, and no one expects that he will, any parent who objects to vaccinating on principle can get his or her child exempted. Mr. Abinanti’s argument stems from a long since discredited study linking vaccination with autism. Mr. Abinanti has a son with autism.
However, giving parents the right to exempt their children from vaccination on philosophical grounds is considered medically dangerous because it increases the risk that these unvaccinated children — including those too young to be vaccinated and those who can’t be vaccinated because of medical reasons — will now be exposed to childhood diseases many thought had been eradicated.
A recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland in California is widely attributed to the movement among parents, who refused to refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated. A reported 82% of those exposed to the disease were either too young to be vaccinated or their parents refused to allow them to be vaccinated.