Hundreds of Orthodox Jews attend anti-vaccine rally in New York

Anuja Vaidya (Twitter | Google+) - Print  | 

A rally in Monsey, N.Y., drew hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who attended a "vaccine symposium" featuring leaders of the anti-vaccination movement, according to The New York Times.

The May 13 event's speakers included Rabbi Hillel Handler and pediatrician Lawrence Palevsky, MD. Rabbi Handler spoke of a conspiracy that aimed to use the measles outbreak in the Jewish community as a way to deflect attention from the diseases brought by Central American migrants.

Dr. Palevsky said that failed "lots" of vaccines given to Jewish communities in New York may be causing a new strain of measles, a claim that has not been substantiated.

Public health officials called the rally and symposium an attempt to spread the anti-vaccine message and stoke fear in parents.

In a joint statement about the rally, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Rabbi Chaim Schabez said:

"This type of propaganda endangers the health and safety of children within our community and around the world and must be denounced in the strongest language possible."

The CDC reported that as of May 10, there had been 839 measles cases in the United States, of which 723 are in New York. Rockland County has reported 225 of those cases.

State and local officials have attempted to stem the rise in cases using several tactics, including ordering mandatory vaccinations for residents in four ZIP codes.

Rockland County officials decided to ban unvaccinated children from enclosed public areas in March, but a New York judge put a hold on the decision.

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