An unvaccinated man contracted polio in New York’s Orthodox Jewish community

Rockland County, New York is home to a large Orthodox Jewish community. An unvaccinated Orthodox youth was recently reported in the United States for the first time since 2013, according to the New York Department of Health.

According to the New York Jewish Week (https://www.jta.org/2022/07/21/ny/first-us-case-of-polio-in-nearly-a-decade-is-an-orthodox- Jewish a human)”Local health officials … say they will begin a drive to increase vaccinations against the potentially deadly virus. They said the victim was suffering from paralysis, a symptom of the disease, and had not been vaccinated against it. …Polio is a highly contagious disease that can cause paralysis and even death. Before an effective vaccine was developed in the early 1950s, tens of thousands of Americans were infected each year; some became permanently disabled, and a handful were sent to lung braces, machines to help them breathe on their own when their bodies became too weak. The 1952 outbreak [infected 58,000 people in the US, paralyzed more than 21,000 and] Killed more than 3,000 people, mostly children.

Commenting on the Rockland County case, CNN’s Brenda Goodman noted (https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/21/health/new-york-polio/index.html) that symptoms, including angina, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache and stomach pain. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 200 people experience symptoms such as tingling and numbness in the legs, infection of the brain or spinal cord, and paralysis. There is no cure for poliomyelitis. Treatment to address symptoms may include muscle relaxants and heat and physical therapy to stimulate the muscles. But any paralysis caused by polio is permanent.”

According to Goodman, “Usually, people with polio can spread it to others for about two weeks. Officials say the person is not expected to be contagious now because they have passed the window of time and have normal immune function. But the case of others may have been disclosed before it was determined.”

Unfortunately, most of the Orthodox community is anti-vax, including polio vaccines. According to Forward Rina Shamilov, Rockland County has the largest Jewish population of any U.S. county and has a polio vaccination rate of 42%, the lowest in New York State.

Jacob Henry of the New York Jewish Weekly reports that some Orthodox communities have refused to vaccinate. “The outbreak of new polio caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked strong anti-vaccination resistance in some Orthodox communities, and following measles outbreaks in 2018 and 2019 in Rockland County, an area with a Haredi Orthodox population. The county banned unvaccinated children from public spaces during the outbreak. “.

Although more than 90% of school children are fully vaccinated nationally, “only 60% of children in Rockland County have received all three doses of polio vaccine by age 2, the recommended age for vaccination,” Henry said.

Although Orthodox Jewish communities are not the only antivax enclaves, “The advent of COVID-19 vaccines has fueled vaccination tensions in those communities and beyond, with unverified misinformation spreading,” said Jacob Henry. “Orthodox physician Zev Zelenko, a hero in some circles for promoting unproven treatments and opposing vaccination, is located outside Rockland County.”

“Support for vaccination is deeply rooted in the Torah, Jewish law and modern rulings. poskim(Jewish Legal Scholars), Nicole L. Muravsky, Grace M. Betesh and Rosalina G. McCoy wrote in his report, “Religious Doctrine and Attitudes to Immunization in Jewish Law” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). /pmc/articles/PMC8549591/).

“Vaccine hesitancy belongs to a long tradition of anti-government libertarianism with deep roots in US history,” wrote David N. Meyers, UCLA Distinguished Professor of History, recently wrote in The Forward (https://forward.com/opinion/511863) /vaccine-hesitancy-haredi-jews-orthodox-hasidic-polio/).“In this respect, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) skeptics are very similar to conservative Christians, whose combination of belief in God and distrust of government represents a powerful new religious libertarianism that has made a deep impression on the United States in the early 21st century. They are, as Nomi Stolzenberg and I argue in our book The American Shettle, subject to a process of “unconscious assimilation,” whereby they rely on the social norms of mainstream American society while persistently resisting overt forms of acculturation.

Over the past 40 years, Meyers wrote, skeptics have resisted government regulations stemming from a sensational 1982 documentary called “DPT: Vaccine Roulette,” which claimed that children immunized against diphtheria and whooping cough could suffer serious disability and disease. stated that it is possible. and tetanus. Later in the 1990s, Drs. Andrew Wakefield appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet and claimed a link between the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine and autism, among other effects; it was widely discredited and eventually retracted.

“Since then, the Internet has served as an amplifier for these types of claims, leading to an increase in requests for vaccine exemptions. Those seeking exemptions on medical and religious grounds form a curious coalition of opponents or skeptics, including Christian scholars, white conservative evangelicals, fractious, progressive parents in blue states and Haredim, among others.

The COVID pandemic, the presidency of Donald Trump, the QAnon conspiracies, the spread of misinformation on social media, and the rise of anti-government attitudes have led to vaccine refusal, and worse, complete vaccine refusal.

Forward Shamilov, reporting from a pop-up vaccination clinic in Monsey, New York, wrote (https://forward.com/news/512089/polio-rockland-county-new-york-vaccine-orthodox-jew/) : “While many in line seemed happy to receive the life-changing shot, the tension within the community was palpable. A young Hasidic man outside the clinic, who declined to be named, said he considered reports of a new case of polio a “hoax” and dismissed warnings from local health officials. “Polio is a joke,” he said. “No one has had the virus in 50 years.” (In fact, there have been about 200 confirmed cases worldwide since 1975.)

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