Unless you’ve been living under that metaphorical rock, you probably know that officials in New York City have ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to stem a large outbreak of the dangerous disease. Within nanoseconds of that announcement, the anti-vaccine hate brigade began with their usual list of crackpot misinformation and pseudoscience.
Given how much the anti-vaccine religion abuses social media to push their lies and deception, this article will refute some of the most egregious false claims. Of course, most anti-vaxxers won’t read this, but let’s hope that someone reading the false narratives about New York City’s mandatory measles vaccinations will come here to find evidence-based facts.
Before I begin, the order from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was mostly in response to an outbreak among ultra-Orthodox Jews in the borough of Brooklyn. It is probably the largest vaccination order in the United States since the 1980s.
As of 9 April 2019, approximately 285 people have contracted the disease in New York City since September, mostly in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, which has a large number of ultra-Orthodox Jews. New York City public health officials said that of the 285 individuals, 246 were children. Furthermore, 21 of those children have been hospitalized, five in an intensive care unit. Yes, measles is dangerous, and children will be hospitalized.
So, let’s get to those mandatory measles vaccinations tropes.
Mandatory measles vaccinations – not a Holocaust
You’ll probably be seeing people, like the loathsome, ignorant Del Bigtree, wearing the yellow star, except with something like “No Vax” printed on it, that closely resemble the ones that Jews were ordered to wear by the Nazis. They are trying to compare the murder of six million Jews by the Germans to vaccinations.
As I wrote recently, it is simply anti-Semitic holocaust-denying rhetoric to compare the murders of six million Jews in Europe to vaccines, which, as far as we are able to tell, has never killed anyone. Moreover, vaccines actually save lives, an estimated 700,000 children since the 1990s. I don’t know how to make this any damn clearer, but the Holocaust murdered Jews, and vaccines save the lives of Jews, atheists, Muslims, and Satanists.
Either people like Bigtree and his slobbering sycophants can’t count, don’t understand the Holocaust, or must lie to make their false claims – it doesn’t matter, it is a horrific comparison that fails logic and history.
Instrumentalizing the fate of Jews who were persecuted by hateful antisemitic ideology and murdered in extermination camps like #Auschwitz with poisonous gas in order to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a symptom of intellectual and moral degeneration.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) March 29, 2019
It’s not about religion
No, it’s not about religion. There are no mainstream (using the term very broadly) religions that are against vaccinations, including Judaism.
Maybe you think that anyone can invent some religious claim to their religious beliefs mean they shouldn’t vaccinate themselves or their children. At least in New York, that will be difficult to justify, as courts have not looked favorably on false claims about religious exemptions to vaccines.
NYC can enforce mandatory measles vaccinations
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the internet. However, there are a number of constitutional cases that have been heard by the Supreme Court that have given public authorities the right to mandate vaccinations to protect the health of the community. This is settled law.
In Jacobson v Massachusetts, Justice John Marshall Harlan delivered a decision for a 7-2 majority. He rejected Jacobson’s claim that the Fourteenth Amendment gave him the right to refuse a mandatory vaccination order. Harlan wrote that Massachusetts could fine or imprison those who refused vaccines. However, the state could not forcibly vaccinate anyone. Harlan also created a “medical exemption” for those individuals who shouldn’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who frequently posts about vaccine law and public policy here, wrote a blog post at Harvard Law regarding this specific issue (which is definitely worth reading). She wrote:
Courts have consistently found that school mandates are not in violation of the First Amendment even if they do not offer a religious exemption, and there is every reason to apply that general conclusion to this mandate.
Basically, there is no absolute right to force a risk of disease on the community because of one’s religious beliefs. Nor is there an absolute right to sacrifice children too young to choose to such a disease; the ringing language in Prince is applicable:
“Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.” Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 170 (1944).
Which leads to…
No one is going to be forcibly vaccinated
The outrageous memes that are being spread by the anti-vaccine nutjobs are without merit. There will not be a line of New York City police rounding up ultra-Orthodox Jews, pushing them to the floor, while Dr. Paul Offit injects them with 10,000 vaccines.
The Department of Health order states that people, including children older than six months, who live, work, or reside in four zip codes and who have not received the MMR vaccine within 48 hours, or they must show that they have been vaccinated or has antibodies to measles. They can also show evidence of a need for a medical exemption.
Anyone who refuses this order may be subject to a fine ($1000), imprisonment, or forfeiture of property. But no one will be forced to be vaccinated.
And the order does not state that they have to wear a yellow star (or anything else) to indicate that they are or are not vaccinated.
This is not a Big Pharma conspiracy
First of all, Big Pharma vaccine manufacturers are not going to suddenly have billion dollar bonuses for executives if a few thousand people get the MMR vaccine. Seriously, this is a ridiculous claim.
In fact, if Big Pharma really wants to make a ton of money, they would shut down vaccine manufacturing, so that they could make a boatload more money from children with measles complications being admitted to the hospital. If we suddenly had birth cohorts of children who don’t receive the vaccine, we could see 5-7 million children a year (in the USA alone) who contract the disease. That could lead to thousands of deaths plus up to a million hospitalizations.
That would bring some serious number of gold bars to Big Pharma.
Measles is dangerous
Anti-vaxxers continue to claim that measles is an unimportant disease that helps prevent cancer or make their kids healthier. Or some other such nonsense.
In fact, here are some facts about measles complications.
Measles has an effect on the immune system that makes children (and adults) more susceptible to other diseases. It appears that measles can actually weaken the immune system for up to three years. So much for not being dangerous.
According to the CDC, some of the many measles complications are:
- About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications.
- Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
- Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
- Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.
These measles complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old (usually those with lapsed immunity).
Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, deafness, and other long-term neurological deficits. For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
In addition, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a rare chronic, progressive encephalitis that affects primarily children and young adults, is caused by a persistent infection of the measles virus. The disease starts with a measles infection, usually before the age of 2 years, followed by approximately 6-15 asymptomatic years. Some researchers think the asymptomatic period is around 5-8 years after the initial disease. Gradually, the disease progresses with psychological and neurological deterioration, which can include personality changes, seizures, and coma.
It is fatal. It is incurable. And it only happens as a result of a measles infection.
Moreover, a recent study has established that SSPE may be a more frequent measles complication than previously thought. The researchers examined the California Department of Public Health records for reported measles cases during 1988-1991 and found that the incidence of SSPE was 1:1367 for children <5 years, and 1:609 for children <12 months at the time of the measles infection. This might make SSPE one of the more frequent and dangerous complications of measles.
The mandatory measles vaccinations in New York City are not a result of a police state action. It is simply to protect children from a dangerous and deadly disease. It’s to protect those who have immunosuppression who are at risk of death from measles. It is to protect newborns who are too young to be vaccinated.
It is a good public health action to protect the citizens of New York City.