A federal judge in New York has denied a request to let 44 unvaccinated children return to school after their parents sued the Rockland County Health Department over a policy enacted in December. The parents argue that Commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert’s order to keep unvaccinated children in specific zip codes with vaccination rates of under 95 percent out of school violates religious objections to vaccinations.
The county is currently experiencing its longest outbreak since 2000, with 145 confirmed cases tallied since October, LoHud.com reported. Most of the cases involve members of the Orthodox Jewish community. The lawsuit was filed by 24 plaintiffs whose children attend Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge.
“The plaintiffs have not demonstrated that public interest weighs in favor of granting an injunction,” U.S. District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti, said in his ruling Tuesday, according to LoHud.com.
While the parents argued that keeping the children out of school was taking a social and psychological toll on them, the county’s attorney said keeping unvaccinated kids out of the classroom helps stifle outbreaks from spreading further.
“While no one enjoys the fact that these kids are out of school, these orders have worked,” Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach said in a statement, according to LoHud.com. “They have helped prevent the measles outbreak from spreading to this school population.”
Measles outbreaks have sparked vaccination debates worldwide recently, with Italy putting a law into effect on Tuesday that mandates parents get their child vaccinated for school or risk facing penalty. The consequences for failing to comply will reportedly vary depending on the child’s age. Children age 6 and younger may be barred from attending school, while parents of older unvaccinated children may face hefty fines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.