‘We’re ready to go to war on this’: N.J. lawmakers pledge to reintroduce failed vaccine bill

People hold signs during a protest at the state house in Trenton, N.J., Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote Monday on legislation to eliminate most religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, as opponents crowd the statehouse grounds with flags and banners. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

People hold signs during a protest at the state house in Trenton, N.J., Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote Monday on legislation to eliminate most religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, as opponents crowd the statehouse grounds with flags and banners. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

Democratic leaders in the New Jersey Senate failed again on Monday to rally enough support for a controversial bill that would eliminate the religious exemption for mandatory childhood vaccines.

The monthslong effort inspired raucous protests at the Statehouse in Trenton from opponents who said requiring childhood vaccines would violate their religious beliefs.

Although the Assembly previously passed the measure, there were not enough votes in support of the bill in the state Senate on Monday, the last day of the two-year legislative session.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the bill would be reintroduced Tuesday, the first day of the new two-year session.

“We’re ready to go to war on this, and we will,” Sweeney said. “We will pass this bill. It’s not an easy one, and a lot of bills we do aren’t easy and take time to get through. But this is about public health. It’s about protecting people.”

Lawmakers recently amended the bill to carve out private schools and daycare centers from the new requirement, which was enough to win the support of Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth.

He lauded the efforts of opponents, but said something must be done.

“The folks who opposed this deserve credit for putting together a pretty amazing grassroots effort,” O’Scanlon said. “But now what comes next? Do we bury our heads in the sand and hope that the resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases just goes away?”

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