New York City has a good legal case for imposing vaccines


Five anonymous parents recently filed a lawsuit in the Brooklyn Supreme Court against the Ministry of Health and Mental Hygiene and its Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. The issue is an emergency order making measles immunization mandatory, which opponents claim violates their religious beliefs.

Clearly, this is an extremely sensitive issue, especially as the orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn has been hit hard by this new measles epidemic. In New York City, nearly 300 cases have been reported, many in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. However, based on previous jurisprudence, the Brooklyn Supreme Court has a compelling reason to rule against the parents in this case.

Essentially, the trial touches on the difficult question of when personal religious concerns outweigh public safety concerns. According to the New York Post:

Mayor Blasio said Tuesday a public health emergency over a measles outbreak in Williamsburg and ordered mandatory vaccinations in the Brooklyn neighborhood under the threat of a $ 1,000 fine – and even the possibility of 39, forced injections.

This unprecedented move, involving more than 212,000 people living in an area covered by four postal codes, has followed the diagnosis of 285 cases of measles in the city – mainly in Williamsburg – since October.

Under the order signed by Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, anyone who lives, works or attends a school in postal codes 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249 and is not already immunized against measles must be vaccinated within 48 hours.

Parents are responsible for vaccinating their children, with the sole exception of those who can prove that they "should be exempted for medical reasons".

Health Department inspectors will also visit Jewish religious schools to ensure that yeshiva students who have not been vaccinated are properly excluded. [from school] under this order, "said Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor of Health and Social Services.

According to La Poste, the opponents of this order claim that the measles epidemic is not serious enough to meet the 48-hour rapid vaccination criterion, as no deaths have been reported. They also allege that they are forced to vaccinate against rubella and mumps, which in their view poses risks, and that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine poses risks to them. children under 12 months and young women likely to become pregnant. .

The lawsuit states that "the respondents' emergency orders unnecessarily exceeded the religious practices of the applicants and their children, as well as the statutory exemptions for the vaccination of children, which they obtained in full compliance with the public health rules".

This is a very difficult question because it opposes the right to individual autonomy, informed consent and the free exercise of religion against the need of the city to protect the public. However, the order of Mayor Bill de Blasio seems to be fairly well supported from a legal point of view.

In Jacobson c. Massachusetts (1905), the US Supreme Court considered the issue of mandatory vaccination in the event of smallpox outbreak. In discussing the Jacobson case, the AMA Journal of Ethics has explained:

In that case, the Court held that the police power of a state absolutely included reasonable rules established by the legislature to protect public health and safety. Such regulations do not violate the right to liberty of the Fourteenth Amendment, because they reflect the many constraints that each person is necessarily subject to for the common good. The real liberty for all can not exist if each individual is allowed to act without taking into account the prejudice that his actions might cause to others; freedom is limited by law. The Court then determined in Jacobson that a state may require vaccination if the board of health considers it necessary for public health or safety.

Although people have differing views about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, the question is whether these concerns and the decision not to vaccinate should offset the potential risks to public health. The answer to this question, based on Jacobson, seems to be no. The next question is whether the decision not to vaccinate on the basis of deep-seated religious beliefs should be protected in case of risk or threat to the public.

Interestingly, as noted Stat News, Jacobson did not include religious exemption from vaccination. In other words, the argument against compulsory vaccination concerned the adverse effects of smallpox vaccination on the plaintiff and his son. It has nothing to do with Jacobson's religious beliefs.

According to Stat News, quoting Wendy Parmet, a professor of public health law at Northeastern University, "several cases over the years have indirectly created the impression that the Constitution does not give the right to oppose vaccination for religious reasons. It is quite clear that there is no constitutional right to a religious exemption. In addition, according to the Jewish Star, some rabbis have stated that there is no legitimate religious motive to oppose vaccination. However, there are clear religious grounds for making vaccination of children compulsory.

Without a doubt, this case will slowly make its way into the judicial system. Of course, by the time he reaches the end of the road from a legal point of view, the outbreak could be over. In any event, it will be interesting to see how the courts handle this difficult and very delicate legal issue.

Elad Hakim is a writer and lawyer. His articles have been published in American Thinker, The Sun-Sentinel and elsewhere. He is on Twitter @ Elad3599.

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