TRENTON — The state Senate is expected to vote Monday to eliminate the religious exemption from the state's immunization requirements.

The proposed law — S2173/A3818 — was approved in the Assembly last month but stalled in the Senate when leaders could not muster the 21 votes needed to pass it.

The proposal has met with fierce opposition by groups and parents who are against mandatory vaccinations — not always for religious reasons. The law would still allow for medical exemptions to vaccines.

State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, agreed to vote for the bill, which could give it enough votes to pass, after the Senate agreed on Thursday to take up his amendment to allow private schools and child care centers the option to decide whether to admit non-vaccinated students.

The percentage of fully vaccinated school children in the state has declined from more than 95% in 2013-14 to just over 94% in 2018-19.

One in 38 students — or a total of about 14,000 — have a religious exemption from vaccinations. That number has grown in five years from just under 9,000, alarming public health officials who fear the spread of diseases.

After announcing his vote, critics responded to O'Scanlon by arguing that the religious provision should not just apply to families who can afford private school tuition in a state with already high property taxes.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Statehouse on Thursday and were audible as senators took action on the amendment.

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