A judge in New York says unvaccinated kids are officially allowed back in schools and public places in Rockland County after they were banned in response to 167 confirmed cases of measles.
We talked about the Rockland ban last month, when an official for the county issued a rare emergency declaration banning all unvaccinated children from entering public spaces. That came about due to a measles outbreak that started in a community full of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The ban was celebrated by those of us who value the scientific findings on vaccine efficacy, but now it has been reversed.
“Children are hereby permitted to return to their respective schools forthwith and otherwise to assemble in public places,” Judge Rolf Thorsen wrote in his Friday decision.
The controversial ban, announced by a spokesman for Rockland County Executive Ed Day, was an effort to address an outbreak in Rockland County, where 167 confirmed cases of measles had been reported as of Friday.
Officials in the county declared a state of emergency, as Lindsey Bever reported in The Washington Post last week, announcing that the ban would remain in place for 30 days or until unvaccinated minors receive the MMR vaccine to protect them against measles, mumps and rubella. Unvaccinated minors, official said, would not be permitted in enclosed places like churches, schools and shopping centers.
The ban was a matter of public safety, and it didn’t place unnecessary burdens on any parents. All they had to do was get their kids the shot and they would be allowed everywhere again. Anyone who violated the ban (if detected) would only have been given a $500 fine or up to six months in jail, but experts have classified that as a “symbolic” gesture.
Dorit Reiss, a professor at U.C. Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, said a ban by executive order was an unusual step, one that prompted outrage in the national anti-vaccine community.
But she saw it largely as a symbolic measure.
“It wasn’t as aggressive as it could have been,” Reiss said. “They weren’t intending to do mass arrests.”
Despite the fact that the measure was largely based on unenforceable rules, and that it was in the name of public safety, the judge still reversed it.
Thorsen made his ruling after some parents from a private Waldorf school filed a suit calling the action “arbitrary, capricious” and “an unprecedented ‘declaration of a local emergency.’” The parents claimed that the county had acted beyond its legal authority. They said the declaration caused “children to be denied attendance at nursery programs and schools and has effectively prohibited their movement and denied them the right to congregate and assemble in public places.”
The ban was 1/3 of the way over at the time of its reversal, so there’s no telling if the county officials will even bother appealing it. Still, it’s unfortunate that this judge didn’t side with the public’s safety.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Scott for the link)