Orthodox Jewish families in Brooklyn sued the city Monday, accusing public health officials of overstepping their authority by ordering all people in Williamsburg be vaccinated for measles as the community and the nation face a record outbreak of the potentially deadly virus.
The suit, which seeks to lift the health department mandate forcing immunization, was filed just hours before officials shutdown an Orthodox day care center and announced 44 new measles cases citywide.
The day care center — the United Talmudical Academy, where two cases were identified — was shuttered for repeatedly refusing to let health officials inspect its medical records. There are about 200 students at the school.
Another 23 yeshivas and day care centers got slammed Monday with citations for violating the order to keep kids without shots way from other students.
Last week, Mayor de Blasio ordered all people living in Williamsburg zip codes to show proof of measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations within three days or face up to $1,000 in fines after an outbreak in infections.
The parents who filed the lawsuit, two of whom are not Jewish, say the move infringed on their religious beliefs and was a vast overreach on the part of public health officials.
The city “failed to employ the least restrictive measures to end the measles outbreak,” according to the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Robert Krakow, the lawyer representing the families, argued that the city should have quarantined those believed to be infected before issuing the immunization edict.
“There is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak to justify the respondents’ extraordinary measures, including forced vaccination,” Krakow argued in the suit.
“They have the right to make health decisions for their families,” he said.
“I think there are multiple dangers here,” Krakow told the Daily News in a phone interview. “There’s the harm to my clients’ rights — their religious freedom. I think it harms the vaccination program because it promotes public distrust.”
The parents fighting the vaccination mandate touched upon the religious freedom issue in their suit.
“I made my choice five years ago to follow my religious belief and not vaccinate my family,” one parent identified by the initials, C.F. wrote in an affidavit. “I take full responsibility for this decision. We are healthy and do not constitute a public threat or nuisance in any way. Our religious choice must be respected as U.S. citizens. We are entitled to our civil liberties and the option to partake of the medical treatments that are consonant with our religion and to heal ourselves in a way we see fit.”
None of these arguments have convinced the city, which has seen 329 confirmed measles cases in Brooklyn and Queens since October 2018 — 284 of those case were children under 18 years old.
“We feel very confident about our legal position,” Mayor de Blasio said. “This is something the law department feels strongly about it, everything’s been done here fully within our legal rights obviously in the midst of a real health challenge.”
A Manhattan judge scheduled a hearing in the case for Thursday. He did not grant an injunction against the Health Department order.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control announced a drastic uptick nationwide — nearly 200 cases — over the same period last year.
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