LOADING ...

Antivax Parents Sue Over Mandatory Vaccination Order in New York (Which Has a Major Measles Outbreak)

Tom McKay Apr 17, 2019. 21 comments

A group of five unnamed mothers are suing the city of New York, trying to get it to block a mandatory measles-mumps-rubella vaccination order city officials ordered earlier this month in specific ZIP codes in Brooklyn amid a major measles outbreak.

The city health department said that it would enforce the order by checking vaccination records and tracking down individuals who have been in contact with infected individuals. Those who haven’t received the MMR vaccine or can’t provide evidence of immunity could end up slapped with a $1,000 fine if they refuse to get the shot. Per ABC News, the plaintiffs in the suit to stop that from happening are alleging that “there is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak” to justify the order (despite at least 285 reported cases in the city this year) and called it “arbitrary and capricious.”

Attorney Robert Krakow, who represents the plaintiffs, told the New York Law Journal one of the families involved felt they were forced to innoculate their two children rather than face the fine.

“That’s compulsion, and that’s equivalent to force,” Krakow said. “The city should not be doing that.”

According to Ars Technica, the lawsuit also cites repeatedly debunked and entirely without merit claims that the MMR vaccine is dangerous. The movement of people who believe such claims, popularly known as antivaxxers, typically parrots scientifically unsupported talking points that vaccines can result in anything from autism to made-up nonsense like “vaccine overload.” Authorities have also warned about “measles parties,” a supposed phenomenon where antivaxxers deliberately expose children to the measles virus so they can build immunity. (Snopes found little evidence this is a real trend, but proponents like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin exist.)

In reality, the Centers for Disease Control says the MMR vaccine is 97 percent effective with the recommended two doses, and getting the shot usually only poses any risk of serious side effects to the severely immunocompromised or the one or two people per million reported to be allergic to it. It also prevents measles, one of the many conditions the CDC estimated in 2014 would have caused an additional 21 million hospital visits and 732,000 deaths among children born in the past 20 years were it not for the success of the Vaccines for Children program launched in 1994. (Measles is absolutely not something to be taken lightly and can lead to opportunistic infections or severe neurological problems like encephalitis.)

The World Health Organization has declared the antivax movement a global public health threat, and antivaxxers have taken much of the blame for measles’ resurgence—which Ars Technica noted stands at 555 cases in 20 states so far in 2019, on track to surpass 2014's tally of 667.

The lawsuit also alleges the order violates religious freedom. There are indeed exemptions to mandatory vaccination on religious grounds in 47 states, including New York. But the New York Times noted city and state health commissioners usually have vast powers dating to the epidemic-ridden 1800s (late NYC health commissioner Dr. Cyrus Edson said in 1892 he could seize New York City Hall and convert it to a hospital) and that there is “virtually no canonical basis for vaccine avoidance among the world’s major religions.”

In any case, while the outbreak is believed to have originated among New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, the vast majority of rabbis and others there are strongly pro-vaccine—with the Times and BuzzFeed News pointing instead in part to a dedicated fringe group of antivaxxers, backed by national antivax organizations, targeting ultra-Orthodox Jews with fliers and handbooks. (A Politico report cited the rate of religious exemptions in Williamsburg at five percent; this is obviously very bad, but far from the highest non-medical exemption rate in the country.) The Times separately reported that some of the strongest pushback against the antivaxxers has come from Jewish groups working closely with health officials.

“The publicity of us—the rabbinical leadership and lay leadership—telling people that you have to, by Jewish law you have to vaccinate—That is going to have the effect on those last few holdouts to basically fall in line,” United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg head David Niederman told Politico.

“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods,” Health Department and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot wrote in a statement last week. “They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science.”

As Ars Technica noted, antivaxxers have filed lawsuits in response to other emergency actions. After a separate group of parents in New York’s Rockland County, which is facing a nearly 200-strong measles outbreak, successfully had courts halt a ban on unvaccinated children in public spaces, health officials simply issued another set of orders barring anyone sick with or exposed to measles from indoor and outdoor places of public assembly.

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.”

[ABC News/Ars Technica]

Correction: Measles is just one of the illnesses included in the 732,000 death, 21 million hospitalizations figure released by the CDC. We regret the error.

21 Comments

Other Tom McKay's posts

Google Pixel 4 Leaks Purport to Show Huge Front Bezel, Cutout for Mystery Component Google Pixel 4 Leaks Purport to Show Huge Front Bezel, Cutout for Mystery Component

Google’s forthcoming Pixel 4 series smartphones will have giant bezels on the front of the device containing space for some kind of mystery component, according to images leaked on Twitter.Per the Verge, the leaked images (from prolific tipster Ice Universe, via 9to5Google) purport to show mockups for front panels or screen protectors from the forthcoming line of phones. The...

European Space Agency Chief Urges Humanity to Protect Apollo 11, Lunokhod 1 Landing Sites European Space Agency Chief Urges Humanity to Protect Apollo 11, Lunokhod 1 Landing Sites

July 20, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the date when Apollo 11 crewmembers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface, and the chief of the European Space Agency (ESA) wants to give their landing site, Tranquility Base, special heritage status.Per the Guardian, ESA director general Jan Wörner wants the site—as...

Report: NSO Group's Pegasus Spyware Can Break Into Cloud Services, Transmit User Data to Server Report: NSO Group's Pegasus Spyware Can Break Into Cloud Services, Transmit User Data to Server

Israeli spyware company NSO Group’s powerful Pegasus malware—the same spyware implicated in a breach of WhatsApp earlier this year—is capable of scraping a target’s data from the servers of Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, according to a report in the Financial Times on Friday.According to the Times, “people familiar with its sales pitch” as well as leaked sales...

Google Yanks Seven Stalkerware Apps Discovered by Security Researchers From the Play Store Google Yanks Seven Stalkerware Apps Discovered by Security Researchers From the Play Store

Google has yanked several apps from its Play Store after cybersecurity firm Avast identified them as “all likely designed by a Russian developer to allow people to stalk employees, romantic partners, or kids,” CNET reported on Wednesday.The seven apps—listed as Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free, Spy Kids Tracker, Phone Cell Tracker, Mobile Tracking, Spy Tracker, SMS...

Suggested posts

European Space Agency Chief Urges Humanity to Protect Apollo 11, Lunokhod 1 Landing Sites European Space Agency Chief Urges Humanity to Protect Apollo 11, Lunokhod 1 Landing Sites

July 20, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the date when Apollo 11 crewmembers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface, and the chief of the European Space Agency (ESA) wants to give their landing site, Tranquility Base, special heritage status.Per the Guardian, ESA director general Jan Wörner wants the site—as...

Listening to Music Before Getting Anesthesia Can Help You Stay Calm Listening to Music Before Getting Anesthesia Can Help You Stay Calm

A dose of music might be enough to calm your worries before certain medical procedures. According to a new study out this week, patients who listened to music before having anesthesia injected into them had their level of anxiety lowered as much as those who took a mild sedative.Doctors have gradually started to turn to the power of music...

This Is an Image of Quantum Entanglement... Sort Of This Is an Image of Quantum Entanglement... Sort Of

A new quantum mechanics experiment shows the field’s spookiest concept, entanglement, in a whole new way. But, of course, it’s not as simple as that.Lots of other news outlets have covered what they’ve described as the first-ever image, or even a “photo,” of entanglement, sometimes called spooky action at a distance. The picture does sort of show entanglement, but...

This Moon Machete Didn't Turn Me Into an Astronaut, But It Did Murder My Boss's Weeds This Moon Machete Didn't Turn Me Into an Astronaut, But It Did Murder My Boss's Weeds

When NASA sent humans to the Moon for the very first time, it wanted its astronauts prepared for anything. So in addition to food, maps, and medical supplies, Apollo 11 carried a giant, 17-inch knife into space. Yes, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins headed to the Moon with a machete on board. The knife, manufactured by W.R....

Adorable New Species of Flying Squirrel Discovered in China Adorable New Species of Flying Squirrel Discovered in China

A newly described species of flying squirrel is teaching researchers more about these enigmatic, tree-hopping rodents, but its threatened status means scientists will have to act fast.New research published today in ZooKeys describes Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis, otherwise known as the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel. Spotted in Yunnan Province, Southwest China, it’s one of only three known species of flying squirrel...

Health Care Workers in the UK Turned Over an Undocumented Immigrant Trafficking Victim to Police, Case Report Says Health Care Workers in the UK Turned Over an Undocumented Immigrant Trafficking Victim to Police, Case Report Says

Doctors are getting increasingly entangled in the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has gripped the U.S. and other countries—and, predictably, it’s having horrible consequences for their patients.According to a case report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, medical care professionals in the UK turned over a migrant sexual trafficking victim in their care to the police, and...

NASA and ESA Reach Critical Decision on How the First Lunar Outpost Will Orbit the Moon NASA and ESA Reach Critical Decision on How the First Lunar Outpost Will Orbit the Moon

Your browser does not support HTML5 video tag.Click here to view original GIFA depiction of Gateway’s highly elliptical orbit around the Moon. GIF: ESAMission planners for the lunar Gateway project have decided how the lunar outpost should orbit the Moon—and it’s actually quite brilliant.They’ve chosen a near-rectilinear halo orbit.This highly elliptical orbit should solve a bunch of problems, making it...

The Weird Ways NASA Thought Moon Dust Might Kill Apollo Astronauts The Weird Ways NASA Thought Moon Dust Might Kill Apollo Astronauts

Moon WeekAs we approach the 50th anniversary of the U.S. landing on the Moon, we look back at the hopes, fears, and ingenuity inspired by our closest cosmic neighbor.  Prior to the first Moon landing, scientists had good reason to believe the lunar surface was covered in a fine layer of dust. While this might not sound like a big...

What's the Best Airplane Snack? What's the Best Airplane Snack?

Flying is objectively horrible. We let the magic of heavier-than-air transport cloud the fact that we pay hundreds of dollars to be squeezed into spaces too small for comfort so we can be treated like shit and spew greenhouse gas into the air. Unless we’re rich or flying across the world, we usually don’t even get a free meal...

You Only Have Yourself to Blame If a Bird Attacks You You Only Have Yourself to Blame If a Bird Attacks You

Birds are generally smarter than you think they are. And if you mess with their babies, they WILL attack.There has been a recent uptick in reports of bird-on-human attacks, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. The birds probably aren’t growing more aggressive—humans are just encroaching on their habitats. But yes, you should know that when summertime rolls...

Language