Anti-vax parents bring lawsuits to keep unvaccinated children in school during the epidemic


A baby with measles.
Enlarge / A baby with measles.

While Rockland County, New York, faces a long and protracted measles outbreak, a group of anti-vaccine parents have sued officials for temporarily banning school from unvaccinated children – and the county does not have it.

The Rockland County Attorney, Thomas Humbach, strongly defended the legality of the county's move, which was aimed at thwarting the spread of the disease. He also went so far as to question the validity of the religious exemptions that the parents had used to remove their children from the required vaccinations.

"The [Rockland County Health] The Commissioner, Mrs. Patricia Ruppert, is legally entitled, under the Public Health Act and the New York County County Health Code, to take all necessary steps to curb the epidemic of measles in this county, "said Humbach in a statement released by the press. .

"[T]The right to practice one's religion freely does not include the freedom to expose the community or the child to a communicable disease or to its death, "Humbach wrote. In addition, he added:

The Battle of Rockland against Measles began in late September, when an international traveler arrived with a suspicious case. Since then, other international travelers have arrived in the country with this extremely contagious, sometimes fatal disease.

In total, the county confirmed 145 cases of measles, almost all of which involve children and adolescents (84%). This includes 22 cases (15%) in infants less than one year old – the age at which babies can receive their first dose of measles vaccine. Overall, about 90% of those infected are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. The remaining 10% of those infected had unknown vaccination status.

Contentious case

In order to contain the outbreak, the authorities issued an order in December prohibiting unvaccinated children from school not reaching a minimum vaccination rate of 95%. According to the order, the exclusion of unvaccinated children would end if the region was going on at least 21 days without new case. With the rapid pace of the outbreak, the exclusion time could be increased to 42 days.

The order concerned the private school Green Meadow Waldorf. According to county records, Green Meadow's vaccination rate was about 33% at the time the order was issued in December. Since then, it has risen by about 56%.

In the lawsuit, 24 parents of 44 unvaccinated children attending school alleged that the order violated their religious objections. They also argue that the order was useless because the school did not have measles cases and that the epidemic remained largely within the Orthodox Jewish community of the county and affiliated schools. The Green Meadow School does not have religious affiliation but is located in the area most affected by the epidemic.

"The school they go to has had no case of measles," parents' lawyer Michael Sussman told Patch. "We believe that the current law prohibits student exclusions, except in cases where the school they attend has a communicable disease outbreak. That did not happen here.

On Tuesday, a federal judge denied issuing a temporary injunction allowing the 44 students to return to school. "The plaintiffs have not shown that the public interest was in favor of the injunction," the judge concluded. He did not immediately set the date of the trial in court and reportedly told Sussman that the case could have a better success in a state court.

Rockland is only one of six places in the country currently experiencing a measles outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented 228 confirmed measles cases in 12 states, including New York, since the beginning of the year.

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