Judge Refuses To Let Unvaccinated Children Return To School Amid Outbreak

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Getty/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Judge rules that 44 unvaccinated students are not allowed to return to school during huge measles outbreak

Yesterday, a federal judge denied a temporary injunction that would allow 44 unvaccinated children to return to school in Rockland County, New York, amid the worst outbreak of measles in the state in decades.

The outbreak in Rockland County is so bad, infants in the area are currently on an accelerated measles vaccination schedule. Some infants are getting their first shots six months earlier than average, and the second dose right away.

There have been 167 cases of measles reported in New York since September.

“It’s a clear and present danger right here in our community,” Dr. Douglas Puder, a pediatrician at Clarkstown Pediatrics, told NBC News back in January. Clarkstown Pediatrics is right in the middle of the biggest outbreak, in New York’s Rockland County. The county has reported 105 cases of measles since the fall. More than 80 percent on average had not been vaccinated.

The judge’s ruling came during a court appearance by the lawyer for parents representing the 44 unvaccinated students at the Green Meadow Waldorf school who have filed a lawsuit against the Rockland Health Department and its commissioner. The parents sought to challenge an order barring the unvaccinated children from school.

“We have had success, but this case is not over,” Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach says in a statement. “While no one enjoys the fact that these kids are out of school, these orders have worked; they have helped prevent the measles outbreak from spreading to this school population.”

As for the temporary injunction, the judge was adamant that the plaintiffs involved (the parents of the unvaccinated children) adhere to the public interest. The parents disagree.

“Preventing my child from being with his class, his teacher, his classroom, has had a significant social and psychological impact,” said one parent of a 4-year old preschooler. “He is confused, given his young age, about why he isn’t allowed on his campus.”

Vaccinating these children would solve literally all of these “problems,” but I digress.

The outbreak, which has mostly affected the Orthodox Jewish community, led Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert to impose an order that certain schools in the affected area with vaccination rates under 95 percent must keep unvaccinated children from attending.

Although court papers filed by Sussman state Green Meadow’s students are “97 percent immune from the disease by all accounts,” the county’s Law Department said the school’s vaccination rate was about 33 percent when the Dec. 5 order was imposed. It subsequently has risen to about 56 percent. A vaccination rate of 95 percent or higher is needed to prevent outbreaks of the disease.

New York health officials continue to do what they can to have schools, daycares, and preschools require vaccinations and enforce exclusion policies to stop the spread of measles as permitted by law.