New York City judge rules that religious grounds are not enough to put your child in harm’s way
The fight against unnecessary vaccine exemptions reached a milestone last week when a New York City judge ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their un-vaccinated children were refused entry to their school because another pupil had a vaccine preventable illness that their children were not protected from.
What marks this as a step in the right direction against the anti-vaccination community is that this does not force families to get their children vaccinated, rather it illustrates to them the consequences of their decision not to vaccinate. This is a protective move by the New York court rather than the more coercive drives to get children vaccinated that usually grab media attention. And when the plaintiffs inevitably appeal, they will surely have to demonstrate that their children would not be at harm in the presence of a disease that they are not protected from.
New York City requires that all children attending public schools meet the required vaccine schedule, or else they must apply for and receive a religious exemption. In some states philosophical exemptions can be granted, this however is not the case in New York.
After their children were refused entry to their schools, sometimes for months at a time, the 3 families filed a law suit against the city. Two of the families claimed that the barring violated their 1st Amendment right to religious freedom, and their 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law.
The third plaintiff sued on slightly different grounds, claiming that she had been unfairly denied a religious exemption after a school-nurse incorrectly filed for a medical-exemption that was later reject, which the plaintiff coloured the decision to deny a religious exemption.
Judge Kuntz ruled in favour of the schools after citing a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that deemed legal the fining of a Massachusetts man who refused to get a vaccine during a smallpox outbreak. With this forming the basis of the Judge’s ruling, it is clear that the public health community in New York are concerned about the rising number of vaccine preventable illnesses across the country. New York itself has a relatively high vaccination rate compared to the rest of the country, at around 97%, but pockets of vaccinated children are a great cause for concern in one of the world most densely populated cities. Of particular concern is the congregating of vaccinated children at private schools where vaccination levels reach as low as 70%.
Read more from the New York Times here.