Joe Hendrick’s sons are part of a growing number of children in the US who have not been vaccinated. Their family has decided against vaccines for reasons that mix a firm belief in personal freedom with scientifically-unconfirmed concerns about what’s inside vaccines. But unlike most unvaccinated families, Joe’s family is facing a first-of-its-kind ultimatum: get your kids vaccinated or keep the out of all public places.
Last week, Rockland County, New York instituted a thirty day ban on unvaccinated children in public spaces, including schools. 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.
Dr. Patricia Ruppert, the Rockland County Health Commissioner, says there have been 161 confirmed cases of measles and that there are likely many more that they don’t know about. While 98% 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.
In the interim, Joe Hendrick has chosen homeschooling over vaccination. He’s now juggling that with his job and a two-week old newborn child. When asked if having a new baby had given him any second thoughts, Joe explained that he felt emboldened. “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.”
VICE News traveled to Rockland County, where officials are trying to reach people who have put personal choice over public health.
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