As ongoing and growing measles outbreaks flare up around America some New York City anti-vaxxers are suing to block last-minute emergency measures city leaders are taking to slow the spread of infectious disease.
The anti-vaxxers are relying on the repetition of known bad science to carry the day.
Five unnamed mothers in New York City filed a lawsuit Monday, April 15, seeking to block the city’s mandatory vaccination order in areas hit by a massive measles outbreak that has raged since last October.
City health officials announced the order earlier this month as they declared a public health emergency over the outbreak, which has sickened 329 people so far—mostly children. According to the city’s order, all unvaccinated people in affected ZIP codes must receive the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, prove immunity, or have a valid medical exemption. Violators could face a fine of $1,000.
In the lawsuit, the mothers claim that the outbreak does not constitute a dangerous epidemic (though the virus can cause severe complications and even death) and that the city’s orders are “arbitrary and capricious.” Moreover, they allege that the MMR vaccine has significant safety concerns (this is false; side effects beyond mild, temporary discomfort are exceedingly rare) and that the order violates their religious freedom.
The lawsuit is just the latest example of anti-vaccine parents challenging the legality of public health officials’ efforts to curb measles cases—which are mounting at an unprecedented rate across the United States. As the mothers filed their lawsuit Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated this year’s nationwide measles count, reporting a whopping 555 cases confirmed from 20 states. The surge is largely due to parents in insular communities refusing or failing to vaccinate their children based on misinformation and fear mongering about vaccine safety from anti-vaccine advocates.