Tag: religious exemptions

What Does the Torah Say About Vaccines?

Even though I grew up in Borough Park section of Brooklyn, this is probably the last article I ever thought I would be writing…

From the P.E.A.C.H. anti-vaccine magazine.

After all, what do I know about the Torah?

What Does the Torah Say About Vaccines?

Fortunately, it isn’t hard to find experts who have answered the question for us.

“We are obliged by the Torah “Venishmartem Meod L’nafshoseichem,” – “to guard our health” and if the recognized experts are telling us to vaccinate, then we must do it.”

Der Yid Newspaper – Senseless! Heartless! Torah-less and Reckless

There are many people in the Orthodox community warning the parents who aren’t vaccinating their kids that they are on “the wrong path.”

Their choice to skip or delay vaccines and put their kids at risk is not about religion

“There are halachic obligations to care for one’s own health as well as to take measures to prevent harm and illness to others, and Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to illness and prevention. Therefore, the consensus of major poskim (halachic decisors) supports the vaccination of children to protect them from disease, to eradicate illness from the larger community through so-called herd immunity, and thus to protect others who may be vulnerable. The vaccination of children who can medically be vaccinated is absolutely the only responsible course of action.”

Statement on Vaccinations from the OU and Rabbinical Council of America

Again, Orthodox Jews are not against vaccines.

“Getting vaccinated according to recommended guidelines is not only vital for the health of both our community and the public-at-large, but it is also our halachic obligation.”

Rabbi Hyim Shafner

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary. For all of us.

More on What the Torah Say About Vaccines

Timeline of the Measles Outbreak in Brooklyn

Breaking News – there are 31 new cases in Brooklyn, as a judge upholds the order, and more parents face penalties (see below).

There have been several big outbreaks of measles in the United States this year, but until recently, the biggest hadn’t gotten much attention.

As the outbreak in Brooklyn kept getting bigger and bigger, most people focused on the outbreaks in Clark County, Washington and Rockland County, New York.

Timeline of the Measles Outbreak in Brooklyn

Of course, with the emergency order in Brooklyn, the focus is now shifting.

So what do we now about the Brooklyn measles outbreak?

  • the outbreak began in October 2018 and was started by a traveler returning from Israel, where there is a large outbreak
  • as of early April, there have been 285 cases (we rarely see that many cases in an entire year, even when combining all of the cases in the whole country!)
  • most cases are in the Orthodox Jewish community, even though this is not a religious issue, except that this community has been targeted by an antivaccine group
  • 246 cases have been in children
  • the youngest case was an infant who was only 4 weeks old!
  • 21 people have been hospitalized
  • 5 have been admitted to the ICU!

What else do we know?

Although the outbreak is in its 5th month, which is very long for a measles outbreak in the post-vaccine era, there have been 152 new cases in just the past month!

There were 133 measles cases in Brooklyn in early March.

So at a time when cases should have already stopped (most outbreaks only last a few months), or at least be decreasing, the Brooklyn outbreak has more than doubled in size!

There have been 285 cases of measles in the Brooklyn outbreak.

There is no sign of it stopping either, with news reports of more than 20 to 40 cases each week.

And that’s what brought on the April 9 declaration of an emergency order.

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that any person who lives, works or resides within the 11205, 11206, 11221 and/or 11237 zip codes and who has not received the MMR vaccine within forty eight (48) hours of this Order being signed by me shall be vaccinated against measles unless such person can demonstrate immunity to the disease or document to the satisfaction of the Department that he or she should be medically exempt from this requirement. “

ORDER OF THE COMMISSIONER to All persons who reside, work or attend school in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York and to the parents and/or guardians of any child who resides, works or attends school in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

Does this mean that they will be forcing everyone in Williamsburg to get vaccinated? And arresting those that don’t?

“I want to do the common sense point. We are trying to get people vaccinated. Our goal is not to find anyone. Our goal is not to shut down schools. Our goal is to get people vaccinated.”

Mayor Bill De Blasio

It should be clear that they are just trying to end the outbreak.

“People in violation of the order will be identified through identification of exposures. Disease detectives will check for immunization status or immunity when tracing the contacts of a person who has developed the illness. “

Oxiris Barbot, M.D. Commissioner of Health

And no one will be forced to get a vaccine. You might be fined if you insist on not getting vaccinated and you have been exposed to someone with measles, but you still won’t be forced to get the vaccine.

Why did it come to this?

Couldn’t they just quarantine folks who are exposed?

Well, they have been trying that…

And it hasn’t been working.

Williamsburg press conference with NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, with Herminia Palacio, MD, NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, and Oxiris Barbot, MD, NYC Commissioner of Health
Williamsburg press conference with NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, with Herminia Palacio, MD, NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, and Oxiris Barbot, MD, NYC Commissioner of Health

In addition to schools continuing to let in unvaccinated students, the health department is concerned that people in the community might actually be having measles parties!

“So we have not used a public health emergency to mandate vaccine in recent history. The circumstance of the combination of a large anti-vax movement in combination with a large outbreak has not happened in the way that it has happened right now.”

Dr. Herminia Palacio, NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services

As in Rockland, there is also an aggressive anti-vaccine campaign in Brooklyn that is pushing misinformation and is scaring parents away from vaccinating their kids.

30 new cases this week

The case count jumped again on April 24, to 390 cases.

“The Health Department announced today that the number of measles cases has grown to 390, including two pregnant women diagnosed with the infection, one diagnosed in mid-April… Twelve individuals have received summonses for being non-compliant with the Emergency Order since the City began issuing summonses last week. “

If you are upset that this is happening in Brooklyn, the outbreaks and the response to the outbreaks, just remember that it is the anti-vaccine groups working in the community are to blame.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are very obviously necessary.

Get vaccinated. Stop the outbreaks.

Timeline of the Measles Outbreak in Brooklyn

Updated April 18, 2019

How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History

Can you believe that there were only 37 measles cases in 2004?

This year, we sometimes get reports of 37 cases in a week.

What happened?

A rise in measles cases all over the world happened. And since folks do travel, that led to outbreaks in any community that doesn’t have high rates of vaccination.

How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History

And that’s where the PEACH Vaccine Safety Handbook comes into play.

Since at least 2014, the PEACH project folks and have been distributing their magazines filled with misinformation about vaccines in Orthodox Jewish communities.

In addition to Lakewood, the PEACH magazine was sent to “a mailing list that included a comprehensive directory of Pittsburgh families affiliated with various branches of Orthodoxy.”

And it found its way to Brooklyn and other Orthodox communities. Many of the same communities where we are now seeing the largest measles outbreaks in recent history, although there are plenty of outbreaks in other places too.

Surprisingly, PEACH is pure PRATT – anti-vaccine points refuted a thousand times.

Folks really should read the package insert of vaccines and should understand what they say. They don’t say that vaccines are associated with autism.

The cartoons were a nice touch, but should have been a tip-off that none of it was true! There is even a cartoon about the HAZMAT myth.

It all does look very official and sounds scary though, so it is easy to see how parents could be mislead by the magazine, especially when they seem to cite references for all of their “facts.”

This PEACH timeline was originally posted on several anti-vaccine websites back in 2007…

But let’s look at some of the facts in the above timeline:

  • is there any reason why Germany might have seen a rise in diphtheria cases in 1945?
  • Ghana was not declared measles-free in 1967. Unfortunately, Ghana is still not measles-free…
  • while the SV40 virus did contaminate some polio vaccines, it has not been associated with causing cancer or any other problems
  • whooping cough cases rose in Sweden and the UK because they stopped using the DPT vaccine in the late 1970s and 80s over fears of side effects. Of course, we now know that these fears were unfounded and many kids suffered because those fears were hyped by a few doctors, the media, and players from the start of the modern anti-vaccine movement
  • frivolous lawsuits over DPT side effects is what led to the rise in DPT prices
  • Jonas Salk testified that “mass inoculation against polio was the cause of most polio cases in the USA since 1961” because the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines had already controlled wild polio in the United States!!!
  • What about the idea that “the February 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90% of obstetricians and 66% of pediatricians refused to take the rubella vaccine?” That’s actually kind of true. But it was just a survey of a small number of employees at Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center, most of whom believed that they actually were immune because they had likely been exposed to rubella so much in the past.

The rest of the magazine continues with the same kind of propaganda, trying to make folks think that vaccines don’t work, vaccines aren’t necessary, and that vaccines are dangerous.

Their experts?

From Russell Blaylock and Mark Geier to Tim O’Shea and Sherri Tenpenny, it is a who’s who of the worst folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement. They are certainly not the kind of folks you should be turning to for advice about vaccines, or anything else.

I wonder what they say about Shaken Baby Syndrome? Is it a vaccine injury too?!?

As we have seen with these growing measles outbreaks, although it makes a catchy slogan, you can’t always vaccinate later. You can wait until it is too late.

“I can only conjecture. But it has to be a combination a propensity towards conspiracy theories and religiosity gone awry based on bad information and in my view a gross misunderstanding of Halacha.”

AntiVaxxers – Religious Views Gone Awry

And that’s how you end up with the longest lasting measles outbreak in the United States in nearly 20 years.

More on How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

One extra consequence of the rise in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases we have been seeing lately, in addition to the fact that more kids are getting sick, is that we are seeing more kids being quarantined and kept out of school.

“The parents of 42 children affected by the ban at the school, the Green Meadow Waldorf School, sued the Rockland County health department, asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to allow the children to return.”

Parents Wanted Their Unvaccinated Children in School, but a Judge Said No.

And in a few cases, we are seeing lawsuits trying to get some of these kids, mostly intentionally unvaccinated kids, back into school.

Why Is a Kentucky Teen Who Refused to Get Vaccinated Suing His School?

While most outbreaks are related to measles, in Kentucky, a large outbreak of chickenpox at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton has led to the quarantine of a number of unvaccinated students.

A chickenpox quarantine sign

One student, a senior and the starting center on the school basketball team, is suing to get him back in school.

“The Kunkels filed their lawsuit Thursday in the Boone County Circuit Court alleging that the Northern Kentucky Health Department had violated Jerome’s First Amendment rights. Accepting the chickenpox vaccine would be “immoral, illegal and sinful,” they said, according to their Catholic beliefs. The lawsuit also alleges that the health department violated due process when officials enacted the extracurricular and school attendance bans without declaring an official emergency, which would have triggered the involvement of the state legislature.”

God, country and chickenpox: How an outbreak entangled one school in a vaccine showdown

So they are actually suing the health department, not his school, to get him back into school…

Wait a minute though?

Is the Catholic Church against vaccines?

“Since there is no Catholic teaching that the use of these vaccines is sinful, schools cannot allow Catholic parents to claim a religious exemption from the requirement of immunization.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center on Vaccines and Exemptions Granted by Schools

Are they against the chickenpox vaccine?

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

National Catholic Bioethics Center

No, they aren’t, which is why most Catholics vaccinate and protect their kids.

“In the event that the county health department or state health department declares an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease for which proof of immunity for a child cannot be provided, he or she may not be allowed to attend childcare or school for up to three (3) weeks, or until the risk period ends.”

Kentucky Parent or Guardian Declination on Religious Grounds to Required Immunizaitons

A judge will have to decide the merits of the case, but from a moral standpoint, it seems like they are on shaky ground.

More on Quarantines for Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Having to get vaccinated to attend school isn’t a new idea.

In 1827, Boston mandated that all children attending public school must receive the smallpox vaccine.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the 1980-81 school year that there were laws in all 50 states mandating that children receive vaccinations before starting school. The smallpox vaccine wasn’t one of them…

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Not surprisingly, as vaccines did their job and rates of vaccine-preventable diseases dropped, politicians were able to weaken our vaccine laws.

Over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions!

We are now paying the price, with increases of vaccine-preventable diseases among clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children whose parents claim non-medical vaccine exemptions.

And that’s why we are seeing more and more states work to strengthen their vaccine laws.

Legislators who want to combat vaccine exemption abuse should enact laws that make it clear that:

  • medical exemptions are based on ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence-based medicine – not anecdotes
  • medical exemptions should be reviewed and approved by the State Epidemiologist, Deputy State Epidemiologist, or other designated professionals at the health department
  • religious exemptions, if included at all, should specifically exclude philosophical exemptions and must reflect a sincere religious belief
  • philosophical exemptions, if included at all, should require some degree of education against the myths and misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating their kids
  • exempted students will be excluded from school during outbreaks
  • exemptions should include a signed affidavit that is notarized
  • exemptions should be recertified each year
  • most exemptions are temporary
  • a separate exemption application should be required for each vaccine
  • exemption rates should be tracked at the school level and should be posted on school websites

Getting an exemption shouldn’t be easier than getting vaccinated!

Become an advocate and help get more kids vaccinated. You can also help stop bad vaccine laws from being enacted in your state, including some that would make it even easier to get an exemption.

More on A Legislative Guide to Stronger Vaccine Laws

New Vaccine Bills and Laws in 2019

California passed a new vaccine law, SB 277, in 2015.

With the passage of SB 277, California joined Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states that do not allow either religious or personal belief vaccine exemptions.

A few other states passed new vaccine laws of their own in the following years.

Despite what anti-vaccine folks might think, not one of the new laws means that anyone is forcing kids to get vaccinated though.

New Vaccine Bills and Laws in 2019

The idea of vaccine mandates is a big issue as we continue to see outbreaks of measles around the world.

New vaccine laws being proposed across the United States include:

  • House Bill 2505 in Arizona will change their non-medical exemptions from personal to religious
  • Senate Bill 1201 in Arizona will require schools to post immunization rates on their websites
  • House Bill 7005 in Connecticut would permit ordained, commissioned and licensed members of the clergy to acknowledge parental statements concerning religious objections to vaccinations required for enrollment in public and nonpublic schools, instead of school nurses.
  • Senate Bill 354 in Florida updates their immunization registry
  • Senate Bill 1659 in Illinois adds the HPV vaccine to the list of childhood vaccines that kids receive before starting 6th grade
  • HF 206 in Iowa eliminates the religious vaccine exemption.
  • Senate Bill 133 in Kentucky adds vaccine requirements for college students
  • Legislative Document 798 has been sent to the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs in Maine and would remove non-medical vaccine exemptions
  • SD 1520 in Massachusetts adds the HPV vaccine to the list of childhood vaccines that kids receive
  • Assembly Bill 3818 in New Jersey clarifies the religious exemption to vaccination, so that a general philosophical or moral objection to getting vaccinated will no longer count as a true religious exemption
  • Senate Bill 298 in New York adds the HPV vaccine to the list of childhood vaccines that kids receive
  • Senate Bill 925 in Oklahoma requires school districts to report exemption rates
  • House Bill 2783 in Oregon requires parents to submit a form signed by a health care practitioner if they are not going to vaccinate their kids and a signed certificate verifying that they completed a vaccine educational module
  • Senate Bill 329 in Texas simply requires schools to post how many kids are claiming vaccine exemptions
  • House Bill 238 in Vermont eliminates religious exemptions
  • House Bill 1638 has already passed a Health Care and Wellness Committee in Washington and will remove personal or philosophical exemptions for the MMR vaccine
  • Senate Bill 5841 in Washington will remove personal or philosophical exemptions for all vaccines

It’s easy to navigate the new laws.

Get educated and get your kids vaccinated. Vaccines are safe, with few risks, vaccines work, and vaccines are necessary.

Be a vaccine advocate and make sure your state legislators know that you support strong vaccine laws that will keep us all protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, as more and more folks try and abuse vaccine exemptions.

What To Know About Vaccine Mandate Laws

Vaccine mandate laws are expanding as we are seeing more outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.

More Information on Vaccine Mandate Laws:

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What Do We Know About the Rockland County Measles Outbreak?

Breaking News – there are 6 new cases in Rockland County, bringing the total in this ongoing outbreak to 199, as they institute new orders to quarantine anyone with measles or exposed to anyone with measles (see below

We know a lot about the measles outbreak in Rockland County, New York.

Nothing about what Del Bigtree and Sharyl Attkisson have been saying is right.
Did Del Bigtree or Sharyl Attkisson ever correct their false statements about the Rockland outbreak?

That makes it easy to spot anti-vaccine propaganda.

What Do We Know About the Rockland County Measles Outbreak?

What do we know?

We know that the outbreak is still growing.

And we know that most of the folks in the outbreak are unvaccinated.

What else do we know?

“At the end of September 2018, an international traveler arrived in Rockland County with a suspected case of the measles.”

Rockland County Measles Information

The outbreak is already the largest in New York State since the 1990s, before the endemic spread of measles was declared eliminated in the United States.

While it is unlikely to surpass the Ohio measles outbreak of 2014, which reached 384 cases, the Rockland County outbreak has already lasted longer.

In fact, this might will be one of the longer outbreaks is the longest outbreak we have had in a long while since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the US in 2000.

OutbreakCasesDuration
Brooklyn outbreak 2013583/13 to 6/9
Ohio outbreak 20143843/24 to 7/23
Disneyland outbreak 201514712/28 to 4/16
Minnesota outbreak 2017793/30 to 8/25
Rockland County outbreak 2018
1999/18 – ?
Brooklyn outbreak 201835910/18 – ?

The Minnesota outbreak of 2017 lasted nearly 5 months, but that includes the 42 days that they went measles-free.

Why 42 days? That’s equal to two incubation periods and if that much time has passed since the last person was infectious, there is little danger that there is still a missed case of measles in the community.

However, since there have been recent cases in Rockland County, we would be are now into the 6th month, mid-March, to get to that same point now.

Why has this outbreak been so hard to control?

“8 separate index cases, all with exposures to ongoing measles outbreak in Israel.”

Measles Review for Providers

Folks keep reintroducing measles into the community!

And immunization rates in the zip codes most affected by the outbreaks were as low as 54% at the start of the outbreak.

What else do we know?

Nine schools, now in compliance, were fined because they didn’t follow the Rockland County Health Commissioners order to keep unvaccinated and undervaccinated students out of school and provide immunization records and attendance records to the Rockland County Department of Health.

“ALL schools within the Village of New Square and any school with less than an 80% MMR vaccination rate within the geographical area affected by the measles outbreak (Spring Valley, Monsey) will be required to keep un- or under-vaccinated students home until 21 days have passed since the last confirmed measles case in Rockland.”

Health Department Announces Increased School Exclusions Due to Measles Outbreak

We don’t know why they aren’t quarantining all intentionally unvaccinated kids from school until the outbreak is over…

We do know that at least six people have been hospitalized in the Rockland County measles outbreak, including one child who ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit.

And we know that vaccines are safe and necessary! Get vaccinated and stop the outbreaks.

“Children 6 months through 11 months of age get an MMR vaccine now. Getting an MMR vaccine now will help give them some protection against measles. They will still have to get a vaccine at 12-15 months of age and again at 4-6 years of age.

Children 1 through 3 years of age who have already received their first MMR vaccine should get a second MMR vaccine now, as long as 28 days have passed since the first MMR vaccine was given to them. This second MMR vaccine will count for school entry.”

In fact, in Rockland County and other areas being hit with an outbreak, kids should get an early MMR, when they are six months old. And they can get their second dose early too, as early as 4 weeks after their first dose when they turn 12 months old.

Lastly, we know that you shouldn’t believe any of the anti-vaccine misinformation that is going around that might scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids. That’s why we have these outbreaks…

More on the The Rockland County Measles Outbreak

Updated April 22, 2019