Attorneys for parents of five unvaccinated children in Brooklyn have filed a lawsuit against the city’s Health Department, calling for a restraining order to stop a mandatory vaccination rule that went into effect last Tuesday.
Papers filed by attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a frequent critic of vaccines through his group Children’s Health Defense, and two other attorneys argue that the current measles outbreak isn’t an emergency, and the city has overstepped its executive powers by mandating vaccination.
“There is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak to justify the respondents’ extraordinary measures, including forced vaccination,” the papers filed Monday said. “The Orders are, therefore, arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law and in violation of petitioners’ rights under the United States Constitution and New York State law.”
Since October there have been 329 confirmed measles cases, mostly in Williamsburg Brooklyn. 25 people were hospitalized with six needing intensive care, the Health Department announced on Monday.
One of the plaintiffs, identified in an affidavit as A.L., described seeing a mother getting shouted off the playground for “bringing measles around.”
“What is happening right now in Brooklyn neighborhoods is an absolute witch hunt. Members of the Jewish community are being publicly castigated and talked about in the most anti-Semitic ways I could possibly imagine,” A.L. wrote. “I refuse to go against my sincerely held religious belief to comply, no matter how much I am bullied or coerced.”
City health officials have said they will not vaccinate people against their will. As of Friday officials said no fines had been issued for refusing to get the measles vaccine.
Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the City’s Law Department, said he was confident the courts would side with city.
“We are in the midst of an epidemic that was preventable. Our attempts at education and persuasion have failed to stop the spread of measles,” he said. “We had to take this additional action to fulfill our obligation to ensure that individuals do not continue to put the health of others at risk. We are confident that the city’s order is within the Health Commissioner’s authority to address the very serious danger presented by this measles outbreak.”
This story is a developing story; refresh for updates.
Gwynne Hogan is an associate producer at WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @GwynneFitz.