ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York — Joe Hendrick’s sons are part of a growing number of children in the U.S. who haven't been vaccinated. Their family decided against vaccines for reasons that mix a firm belief in personal freedom with scientifically unconfirmed concerns about what’s inside vaccines.
But Hendrick is now facing a first-of-its-kind ultimatum: Get his kids vaccinated or keep them out of all public places. And if he doesn't, he could face a potential punishment of six months in jail, although county officials and police admit that'll be hard to enforce.
"I'd rather move and make sure my family is safe and, you know, we have the right to choose for ourselves instead of being forced into something that could potentially hurt my child," Hendrick said.
Rockland County, New York, (Monsey, Spring Valley, New Square) has seen 161 confirmed cases of measles, one of the most contagious diseases known to man. Last week, the county declared a state of emergency after six months of uncooperative people hanging up the phone, closing the door on inspectors, and refusing to report cases.
Patricia Ruppert, the Rockland County health commissioner, said that many more cases like exist that the county doesn't even know about.
While 98 percent of the cases to date have been among Orthodox Jewish residents who live in tight-knit enclaves, the health department is fighting to communicate to the county that every single unvaccinated person, regardless of faith, bears responsibility for potential spread. Newborns who haven't been vaccinated, pregnant mothers, and people going through chemotherapy are all vulnerable.
In the interim, Hendrick has chosen homeschooling over vaccination. He's now juggling that with his job and a two-week old newborn child. His wife is also on maternity leave.
"Oh, it's gonna make it next to impossible to do work," Hendrick said of the ban.
VICE News traveled to Rockland County, where officials are trying to reach people who have put personal choice over public health.
This segment originally aired April 3, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
9 Measles Cases As 2019 Outbreak Grows: DOH
The outbreak has spread beyond Ocean County, state health department officials said. Read the list of sites of possible exposures.
By Karen Wall, Patch Staff | |
In an update on the state Department of Health website, officials said they are continuing to track and investigate the outbreak declared March 15. Those confirmed cases and one "highly suspect case" may have exposed others to infection between March 9 and March 14.
Read more: Measles Outbreak In New Jersey: Potential Exposure In 3 Counties
Read more: 33 Measles Cases As Ocean County Outbreak Spikes
Anyone who visited the following locations may have been exposed to measles:
- Congregation Bais Tefilla, 33 East 8th St, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 9, 2019 from 8:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.
- March 10, 11, 13, 14 from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- Beth Medrash Govoha, Bais Yitzchok Hall, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 10, 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- March 13 from 12:45 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Beth Medrash Govoha, Yoshon Hall, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 10, 11 from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- March 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- Beth Hamedrash Zichron Binyomin, 701 Princeton Ave, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 9 from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- March 10, 11 from 9:30 p.m. to midnight each night
- March 13 from 10:45 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.
- Lake Terrace Hall, 1690 Oak St, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 11 from 10 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.
- Kol Shimshon, 323 Squankum Rd, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 12 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- March 12 from 9 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
- Bais Medrash Tiferes Pinchos, East 5th St and Negba St, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal B
- March 14 from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
- Tottini Kidswear, 204 Clifton Ave, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 10 from 12 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
- Clover, 115 Clifton Ave, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Kidichic, 251 2nd St, Lakewood, NJ 08701
- March 10 from 1:45 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Monmouth Medical Center, Emergency Department, 300 2nd Ave, Long Branch, NJ 07740
- March 13 from 7:30 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.
If you have been exposed, you are at risk if you have not been vaccinated or have not had measles. Individuals potentially exposed, if infected, could develop symptoms as late as April 21.
Anyone who suspects an exposure is urged to call a health care provider before going to a medical office or emergency department. Special arrangements can be made for evaluation while also protecting other patients and medical staff from possible infection.