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Three Brooklyn parents summoned to court for not vaccinating their kids; could face jail time

NYC says public safety trumps parents' decision not inoculate

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Three Brooklyn parents of unvaccinated children have been issued court summonses by New York City health officials, facing fines and possibly even imprisonment for failing to comply with an emergency order mandating measles inoculations.

What are the details?

On April 9, New York City declared a public health emergency for the neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The Commission of Health issued an order threatening "civil and/or criminal fines, forfeitures and penalties, including imprisonment," against any guardian of an unvaccinated child (6 months or older) who didn't receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine within 48 hours of the mandate.

On Thursday, officials showed they were ready to make good on that threat, calling three parents from separate households to appear in court for violating the order. Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot told The Washington Post her office "did not take the emergency order lightly," calling the mandate "a dramatic response to a serious problem."

The same day, a New York judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the city's Department of Health by five parents fighting against the order. According to The Daily Beast, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel "debunked" all of the plaintiffs' arguments. The parents reportedly presented objections on medical, religious, and moral grounds.

Health officials shut down four schools last week, and a pre-school this week, for "refusing to confirm or deny that all of their attendees had received the MMR shot," the Daily Mail reported.

Anything else?

As of Thursday, the New York City health department counted "359 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since October," noting the outbreak is hitting predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities.

"The initial child with measles was unvaccinated and acquired measles on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease is occurring," the department wrote in a statement. "Since then, there have been additional people from Brooklyn and Queens who were unvaccinated and acquired measles while in Israel. People who did not travel were also infected in Brooklyn or Rockland County."

According to The Post, officials expect the outbreak to get worse before it gets better, "especially as the week-long Passover holiday approaches and families gather at one another's homes."

One last thing…
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