Attorneys said Wednesday they plan to sue New York City by the end of the week for instituting a measles vaccine mandate in a heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency Tuesday over a measles outbreak in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, where officials have documented more than 250 cases since September.
Although the city can’t legally force anyone to get a vaccination, people who don’t could face fines of $1,000. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the order an extreme measure that raises civil liberties concerns about medical treatment. Earlier this week, the city ordered religious schools and day care programs to ban unvaccinated students or risk forced closure.
While controversy boiled in Brooklyn, a judge in Rockland County in New York City’s northwestern suburbs last week lifted an emergency order issued March 26 that banned unvaccinated children from public places for 30 days. The judge ruled that the number of measles cases in the neighborhood, a confirmed 166, did not meet the legal requirement for an emergency order.
Ed Day, the Rockland County executive who issued the order, called the judge’s decision “very wrong-headed,” expressing concern for the well-being of pregnant women and children who could suffer life-threatening complications from the highly contagious illness. —J.B.