Rockland County, New York, has been hit hard by the measles outbreak. It did not prevent anti-vaccination groups holding a rally in the Monday evening area that attracted hundreds of participants, most of the ultra-Orthodox Jews.
"Vaccine Symposium" was sponsored by a Jewish group based in Monsey, New York. Participants referred religious beliefs and pseudoscience as they claimed the efficacy of refuted vaccines.
Despite the growing measles outbreak, it has reached a record height of more than 800 cases nationwide, 75 new cases a week from New York, since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000 ̵
Rally's featured speaker included Andrew Wakefield, whose white reverse study that linked the measles, furrows and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism helped spur the modern anti-vaccine movement. In 2010, Britain dismissed Wakefield from its medical license after being guilty of fraud and child abuse.
The mask epidemic in New York, which is worst in the country, began in ultra-orthodox communities in October, after some unvaccinated children became ill with measles during a trip to Israel, according to the New York Times. Most cases in the city have been among ultra-Orthodox Jews, although many vaccinate their children.
As Vox Julia Belluz reported in October, anti-vaccination rhetoric has taken hold of reasons that have nothing to do with religious doctrine. But "the fact that some Orthodox Jews live beyond the ordinary, avoids technology and keeps the rabbinical view in high interest can leave them particularly vulnerable to anti-growth," she wrote.
One of the most prominent ultra-orthodox anti-wax growers, Rabbi Hillel Handler, claimed on Monday rally that Jews in New York had "demonized." He also criticized New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, calling him "a German" and "a very shabby fellow" for acts that he single out Jews during the epidemic.
Despite measles outbreaks, the rally test shows that the anti-vaccine movement is resilient. On Tuesday, hundreds of outside New York City met to protest against a bill that would ban religious exceptions from mandatory vaccinations. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke at the rally with a lot of mothers who kept him, despite criticism from his family to spread incorrect information.
Technical companies are trying to fight the anti-vaccination movement. If you look at vaccination related content on Twitter, the app will display a statement from the US Department of Health and Human Services at the top of the search results. Instagram has also blocked hashtags that spread incorrect information.
It remains to be seen whether this is sufficient to limit a movement that has been considered a public health crisis. One particular challenge is to fight disinformation in strict or insular communities, which can participate in a rally but not see hashtags on Twitter. The group often shares the same culture and misinformation circulates within society, which will help them justify their antitrust beliefs.
Rebellion from the government often meets with distrust and further isolates society from truthful information. To make progress with such groups, officials need to approach them in an open and empathetic way, informing the University of Washington School of Medicine pediatric professor Douglas Opel Wall Street Journal.
The rally Monday shows how big that challenge is.