JTA — Fewer than 150 women turned out for a vaccine education program in Monsey, New York, less than a month after the same hall was filled with many hundreds of men and women for an anti-vaccine symposium.
The women’s-only event in Monsey, a Rockland County town with a large ultra-Orthodox population, was hosted by a coalition of pro-vaccine Orthodox Jewish groups on Monday night, the local newspaper, the Journal News, reported.
It was for women only so that they would be comfortable asking questions, pro-vaccine activist Shoshana Bernstein told the newspaper. She also called women the “gatekeepers of health in the family.”
Bernstein is the author, with the Orange County Health Department, of a vaccine informational booklet called “Tzim Gezint,” which means “Be Healthy” in Yiddish. It was distributed to the Rockland Jewish community.
The program allowed women to visit booths and ask questions of individual doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The event came less than a month after a symposium with leaders of the anti-vaccination movement attended by hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews. That event included a range of speakers who defy the medical consensus and urge families not to get their children vaccinated. They include Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British physician whose study linking measles vaccines with autism has been both debunked and condemned, appearing via Skype; and pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Palevsky.
Ultra-Orthodox communities in New York City and Rockland County are at the center of the worst measles outbreak since 1992. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Thursday that there had been 550 confirmed cases of measles in New York City between September 2018 and May 29. Rockland County officials said 254 cases of measles had been reported there as of May 28.