Amidst a major measles outbreak in New York and other areas across the country, five unnamed mothers sued New York City to bar the municipality from requiring people to have measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. But a Brooklyn judge has upheld the mandate.
New York City is facing the largest measles outbreak since 1991. According to NYC Health, there have been 359 measles cases since October.
The health crisis led New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare a state of emergency earlier this month.
Following the declaration, the health commissioner mandated that residents of the Williamsburg neighbourhood get measles vaccination since many of the cases have happened in that area, primarily in the Orthodox Jewish community. Under the mandate, anyone who does not get the vaccine risks a $1,398 fine.
“This is the epicentre of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately,” de Blasio said at a press conference in Williamsburg, at the time.
A small group of parents responded to the mandate by suing the city on Monday, claiming that “there is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak” to justify the order, and arguing that the city was forcing them to give their children a vaccine, which they claimed (wrongly) is harmful.
Then on Thursday Judge Lawrence Knipel in Brooklyn ruled against the anti-vaxxers, rejecting their argument that the order was coercive and arbitrary.
“A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire,” Knipel wrote in the ruling, according to Gothamist. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion.”
Following the ruling, the city issued three summonses to parents who had not vaccinated their children. The city health department said its “disease detectives” had determined these children were exposed to measles.
“Because of measles’ long incubation period, we know this outbreak will get worse before it gets better,” NYC health commissioner Oxiris Barbot said, in a statement. “However, we can turn the tide by people getting vaccinated, especially before Passover when families and communities will gather. We urge everyone to protect their children and their fellow New Yorkers by getting vaccinated immediately.”
According to ABC7, if the parents don’t respond to the summons or appear at the hearing, they will face a $2,796 fine.