Day in court for NY Jewish anti-vaxxers amid US measles outbreak

The petitioners are from a Brooklyn neighborhood with the highest number of New York measles cases, after residents who returned from Israel in the fall infected others. 

By World Israel News Staff

Amid a measles outbreak in certain areas of the United States, findings have shown that the virus was brought to the U.S. from Israel and Ukraine and passed on to members of the communities of those infected, many of whom had not been vaccinated, reports the AFP news agency.

With the backdrop of the Israeli connection and an argument made by some that vaccinations are religiously problematic, authorities in New York City have issued an order demanding that residents of Williamsburg, a neighborhood with a large Hasidic population and where the incidence of measles in the city has been the most concentrated, get inoculated if they have not done so already.

The outbreak reportedly began after unvaccinated individuals returned from celebrating the holiday of Sukkot in Israel. However, the attempt to compel vaccination is being challenged in court, reports The Jewish Press.

A court hearing is scheduled Thursday, says the news outlet.

In a petition to block health officials from enforcing the vaccination order, five parents are arguing they have a right to send their children to school without vaccinating them because of the state’s “religious exemption.”

They also claim that the number of those infected does not constitute an epidemic. They maintain, as well,  that the vaccination can have side effects and that less drastic steps – such as quarantining those infected – could be taken instead, according to The Jewish Press.

On Monday, the United Talmudical Academy childcare preschool program in Williamsburg was ordered closed by the city health department due to its repeated refusal to turn over attendance and health records documenting vaccination compliance. The program serves 250 children between the ages of 3 and 5  and is the first program to be closed by the city because of the outbreak, says The New York Times.

Even if not on the scale of an epidemic, it is the country’s largest measles outbreak in decades, the newspaper adds.

As of last week, New York City health officials had reported 285 measles cases since the fall, mostly in children under the age of 18. Twenty-one people have been hospitalized, five in intensive care units, according to the latest figures.

Orthodox Jewish doctors urge vaccination

Meanwhile, to counter the argument that vaccinating runs contrary to Jewish law, an online petition has been published stating: “We, the undersigned doctors who faithfully serve the Orthodox Jewish communities of North America, strongly urge all members of our community to receive all recommended vaccinations.” The names of hundreds of signatories appear on the petition.

A total of 555 cases of measles have been recorded in the United States since January 1, most of them in New York and Clark County in Washington state, reports AFP.

Three new cases of measles were identified Wednesday in Michigan, and those people may have exposed others to the virus,  according to state health officials cited by the Detroit Free Press.

The statewide total is now up to 43 measles cases this year, says the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, adding that this is the highest number of measles cases in the state since 1991, when 65 were reported.