Five anonymous parents are suing New York City for mandating vaccinations for the measles virus earlier this month. The parents say the mandate violates their religious freedom and puts their children at significant risk of developing complications from the vaccine.
In a Kings County New York Court, attorney Robert Krakow argues the vaccination mandate is illegal. The lawsuit is a response to an April 9, 2019 announcement by the city that all unvaccinated people must become vaccinated. If people fail to comply with the order, the city said a fine of $1,000.00.
The bulk of the cases are occurring in Brooklyn. According to the NYC Health website, the order states:
On April 9, the Health Commissioner ordered (PDF) every adult and child who lives, works or resides in the following ZIP codes and has not received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to be vaccinated:
People who demonstrate they are immune from measles have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the vaccine will not need to get vaccinated.
If the Health Department identifies a person with measles or an unvaccinated child exposed to measles in one of the above ZIP codes, that individual or their parent or guardian could be fined $1,000.
The order by the city is in response to a growing measles outbreak that began in September 2018. For more than six months, the measles has spread through predominately Orthodox Jewish communities. In the past week, the city reported 62 new cases in April. The city reported 112 cases in March and 63 cases in February.
New York Health states the cases of measles are affecting unvaccinated children and adults. The outbreak began after an unvaccinated child visited Israel in fall 2018 and contracted the virus. When the child returned home, the virus spread through the community.
With no end in sight for the outbreak, the city believes the mandate is the only way to end the epidemic. Thus far families within these communities have been unwilling to vaccinate their children or stay out of public areas.
According to the attorney representing the parents, the mandate puts the children at risk. The suit alleges that the MMR causes autism and other injuries. More than 100 studies completed around the world have thoroughly debunked the notion that MMR causes autism.
Additionally, the suit states that unvaccinated people are less dangerous than recently vaccinated people. The attorney argues a debunked theory that vaccinated people can shed the virus and infect other people.
While the MMR is a live virus, there is not enough of the virus in the vaccine to shed and infect others. The suit argues that the city is withholding the number of measles cases that have occurred due to vaccine shedding.
Next, the suit argues that the vaccines are against their religion. The attorney said their religious convictions prevent them from vaccinating their children. However, Rabbis in the area have stated repeatedly that vaccinations are not against the Jewish religion. In fact, most rabbis support immunizations and are helping the city educate citizens.
Instead of “forcing” vaccinations, the attorney said the city should quarantine infected people. Additionally, he argues that the city should implement this strategy before mandating vaccines. Next, they say that there are only a small number of active cases and therefore the measles is not an epidemic as the city suggests.Data obtained from New York City Health contradicts the argument by the group. In April, New York City reported 62 new cases of the measles. Two weeks are remaining for the month. If the virus continues to spread as rapidly as it has, the city could report nearly 150 cases for April.
The lawsuit includes other ridiculous arguments against the mandate. However, the attorney consistently cites debunked theories and uses quack doctors that support the vaccine conspiracy theory.
While I am no legal expert, the lawsuit doesn’t appear to hold much weight. In a statement to the Law Journal, city Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci said,
“The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of states and localities to mandate vaccines to stop outbreaks. We are in the midst of an epidemic that was preventable. Our attempts at education and persuasion have failed to stop the spread of measles. We had to take this additional action to fulfill our obligation to ensure that individuals do not continue to put the health of others at risk.”
Attorney Robert Krakov responded by minimizing the severity of the measles and questioning the legality of the mandate,
“Measles is not small pox. It’s not Ebola. It’s measles,” he said. “Our case is not about whether vaccines are good or bad. It’s about whether the city and health department overreached issuing a mandate order that, if they wished to, could force people to have vaccines.”
After filing the suit, a judge assigned to the case denied a temporary restraining order to the families. The families will be back in court on April 18 for a preliminary injunction issue.
Based on the initial response by the judge, a victory for the parents does not appear promising.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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