The New York City Department of Health closed four yeshivas and issued summonses to three Brooklyn parents whose children were exposed to measles but still not vaccinated as of an April 12 deadline imposed in certain Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant zip codes, officials said Thursday.
The parents could face an $1,000 fine if the summons is upheld, or $2,000 if they don’t show up to court.
United Talmudical Academy of Williamsburg-Yeshiva Torah V’Yirah, UTA Beth Rachel School for Girls, United Talmudical Academy, UTA Beth Rachel School for Girls were all forced to close for not fully complying with orders to provide immunization records regularly so as to assure unvaccinated children were being excluded from classes, according to city health officials.
The United Talmudical Academy pre-school on Ross Street in Williamsburg, which the city closed earlier this week, has been allowed to reopen. Although with Passover beginning Friday, all yeshivas will be closed Friday and the following week.
Since October, New York City has seen 359 measles cases mostly in unvaccinated children, with 25 hospitalizations and six admissions to intensive care. The numbers represent the largest outbreak of the virus in nearly 30 years.
The emergency order mandates vaccination for anyone who lives, works or goes to school in the zip codes 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249.
On Thursday, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by several parents of unvaccinated children who were seeking to halt the city's mandatory vaccination.
“A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire,” Judge Lawrence Knipel wrote in his ruling. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion.”
"We're disappointed," said Robert Krakow, the families' attorney. He added that his clients were considering their legal options.
Before the ruling, anti-vaccination activists celebrated what they saw as an early victory, when city attorneys revealed in court that the Health Department had backed off the most severe penalty it sought for not vaccinating. The city’s first emergency order, announced on April 9, had listed imprisonment as a potential penalty, But the language was removed after the order was extended indefinitely by the city’s Board of Health at a public meeting on Wednesday.
“We think they went way beyond what's necessary with this order,” Krakow said before a cheering crowd of roughly two dozen supporters. “That was proven today when they pulled back and they pulled back very quickly once we filed the lawsuit.”
Krakow said the city’s latest order appears to allow the city to fine non-compliant parents per day, instead of the one-time fee the city has publicized.
“Wouldn’t you say that their failure to highlight that is sort of pulling a fast one on the people of the city of New York? I think so,” Krakow said.
“We don’t think there should be any fines at all,” he said.
The city’s Health and Law Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
UPDATE: As part of a clarification, the story has been revised to state that the judge dismissed the case against the city brought by several families of unvaccinated children.