Five angry moms in NYC filed a lawsuit over the mayor's public health emergency declaration amid a measles outbreak. But the judge didn't agree with them.

By Anna Halkidis
April 09, 2019
A young patient with measles.
Credit: fotohay/Shutterstock

April 19, 2019

A Brooklyn judge didn't rule in favor of five mothers fighting against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s public health emergency declaration earlier in April, which called for mandatory vaccinations amid a measles outbreak in the area. Justice Lawrence Knipel dismissed their lawsuit Thursday.

“The unvarnished truth is that these diagnoses represent the most significant spike in incidences of measles in the United States in many years, and that the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is at its epicenter,” he said, according to the NY Post. He added the declaration is warranted and shot down claims the vaccine is unsafe. Those claims are “completely unsupported by studies, medical literature law and regulation," he said.

The Brooklyn parents, who live in Williamsburg and Clinton Hill, were seeking a temporary restraining order and filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Health. They stated "there is insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic or dangerous outbreak to justify” forcing those who live, work or reside in the affected zip codes to get the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), ABC News reported. They also called the declaration “arbitrary and capricious.”

In the meantime, measles cases are continuing to rise in Brooklyn and Queens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there were 359 confirmed cases, as of April 18. That's dozens more than the 285 confirmed cases reported earlier in April.  

Original report: April 9, 2019

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking "unusual action" to protect his city from the measles. On Tuesday, he declared a public health emergency in areas of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which have been heavily affected by a recent outbreak.

Unvaccinated people who live, work or reside in the area are now required to get the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR). Members of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check vaccination records, and those without the vaccine—or proof of immunity—may get a violation and be fined $1,000. 

And that's not all: "Unvaccinated children in the zip codes of 11205, 11206, 11221 and 11249 may not return to school or daycare for the duration of this outbreak," Mayor de Blasio confirmed on Twitter. In a press conference, he said he has the option to temporarily shutdown schools that don’t comply and don't exclude unvaccinated children.

“The goal here is to send the message that people need to act immediately, to get vaccinated, and that vaccination is available readily here in the neighborhood and throughout the city,” the mayor said.

The measures were taken after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 285 measles cases in Brooklyn and Queens between October and early April—228 of those were in Williamsburg. While none of the cases were fatal, 21 required hospitalization. The majority of those infected were from the Orthodox Jewish community. The CDC said an unvaccinated child contracted it during a trip to Israel and spread it after returning home.

Mayor de Blasio stressed the danger the outbreak poses on several groups, including pregnant women, those undergoing chemotherapy, and senior citizens. Measles is highly contagious but two doses of the vaccine (the recommendation) is 97 percent effective. 

"Vaccines don’t just protect your child—they protect everyone else around them including infants and people living with long-term illness. Protect your neighbors by making sure your family is vaccinated immediately," the mayor wrote on Twitter.

New York City’s declaration comes just two weeks after officials in Rockland County, New York took similar measures to prevent the spread of measles in the area. After more than 100 cases of measles were confirmed in the county since fall 2018, Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced anyone under 18 without the MMR vaccine would be banned from public places for 30 days until they receive at least one dose of the vaccination. A state judge has since put a halt on the ban saying the number of measles cases didn’t justify the measures.