Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging NYC’s Emergency MMR Vaccination Order

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A judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the New York City (NYC) Health Department’s order requiring measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccination for unvaccinated individuals living in select areas in Williamsburg.

The NYC Health Department issued the order to prevent the measles outbreak, which infected 329 people in Brooklyn and Queens since October. Most of the confirmed cases of measles involved members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

The mandatory MMR vaccination took effect on April 12. Under the order, those who have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have evidence of immunity could face a fine of $1,000.

On Monday, a group of parents sued the NYC Health Department alleging that the order doesn’t have sufficient grounds to justify such drastic emergency measure. They also contended that the order violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution and New York State law. They asked the Kings County Supreme Court to declare the mandatory MMR vaccination order invalid.

Judge rules that vaccination is necessary to stop the measles epidemic

On Thursday, Kings County Supreme Court Administrative Judge Lawrence Knipel rejected the arguments of the petitioners and dismissed the case.

In his ruling, Judge Knipel noted the “unvarnished truth” that “there is a significant spike in incidence of measles in the United States in many years and that the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is at its epicenter. It has already begun to spread to remote locations.”

In addition, he wrote, “Accordingly, this court can only conclude that there presently exists an emergent measles epidemic in the area codes in or bordering the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, sufficient to warrant the declaration of a public health emergency.”

“Petitioners raise the issue of informed consent and medical ethics, tort law and intemationally accepted human rights principles such as the Nuremberg Code…These issues are inappropriately raised in this context. A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire. Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” according to Judge Knipel.