Five parents in New York City (NYC) on Monday filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene over the recent emergency vaccination order, saying the order lacks sufficient evidence of the measles outbreak and violates legal religious exemptions.
The order was issued last Tuesday in response to a measles outbreak affecting more than 250 NYC residents living in the Williamsburg neighborhood since September. The city issued the order under §556 of the Charter of the City of New York, which charges the Department with controlling communicable diseases and “supervising the abatement of nuisances that affect or are likely to affect the public health.”
The order went into effect on April 9, requiring individuals to get the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine within 48 hours. It provides exemptions for medical necessity and for those who can prove they are immune from the disease.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued forced vaccination is not the least restrictive means for controlling the outbreak and said the city should have isolated or quarantined affected individuals. The order purportedly violates the plaintiffs’ exercise of religion, though their specific religious beliefs are not specified.
The lawsuit asks the court to order an injunction preventing enforcement of the order’s civil and criminal penalties, saying that requiring individuals to get the MMR vaccine is “inappropriate because the MMR vaccine indisputably carries the risk of severe injury and death to some individuals.”
The New York City Board of Health is set to revisit the order on Wednesday.