Health Law

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. among lawyers filing suit to block vaccination order

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Five mothers in New York City have filed a lawsuit seeking to vacate orders requiring measles vaccinations for people living in ZIP codes that have seen an outbreak of the disease.

The lawsuit claims the orders are arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional because “there is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak to justify the respondents’ extraordinary measures.” Courthouse News Service, Jezebel, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, ABC News and the New York Post have coverage.

The parents also say they have obtained religious exemptions from obtaining the vaccine, and the orders violate the First Amendment by imposing criminal penalties for free exercise of religious beliefs.

The lead lawyer on the suit is Manhattan personal injury lawyer Robert Krakow. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is also listed as one of the lawyers. This Daily Beast story describes Kennedy as a vaccine skeptic.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had declared a public health emergency April 9 for parts of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section because of a measles outbreak prevalent in the Orthodox Jewish community, USA Today previously reported. Rabbinical leaders in the city have said vaccines are consistent with Jewish law.

The New York City orders required anyone living or working within the ZIP codes to be vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine unless the person can demonstrate immunity to measles. The vaccine also carries protection for mumps and rubella.

The Washington Post reported last week that New York City has had 285 cases of measles since the outbreak began in October. Seven children and two adults were hospitalized. Measles can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis—an inflammation of the brain that can have long-term consequences.

Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said the outbreak was driven by a small group of “anti-vaxxers” who were “spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science.”

The suit takes issue with the safety of the vaccine and says the city defendants failed to disclose the number of cases that were caused by the vaccine itself. The claim that the vaccine can spread measles is a “particularly poisonous myth,” according to Jezebel.

Another lawsuit accused officials in Rockland County, New York, of overreaching by banning unvaccinated children from schools, places of worship and other public vicinities. A judge issued a temporary stay that prevents the county from enforcing the order, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News.

On Tuesday, Rockland County officials issued a new order requiring anyone with measles to remain at home, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported here. In addition, students in two ZIP codes are being required to stay home from school if they have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have immunity. Exceptions are allowed on medical and religious grounds.

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