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There is a small, yet very vocal and influential group of “anti-vaxxers” living in our heimeshe communities. They should stop reading now as they will not like or listen to what I have to say and will write personal non-scientific scathing diatribes against me. I hope the rest of Klal Yisrael, though, keeps reading this critically important pikuah nefashos article.

 

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Almost all the cases of measles discussed in this letter were directly related to an unvaccinated person spreading his illness – and ignorance – to others. I am very sorry if these words offend anyone, but my vaccinated granddaughter (two years old) just had to get an urgent premature second dose of MMR vaccine after being exposed in a gan in Israel, and her five-month old brother – too young to be vaccinated – had to get a painful gamma globulin shot because of incorrect and dangerous medical views. Hashem yerachem.

There is absolutely no one who disagrees with the psak that a parent must remove his or her child to safety when danger is present. Indeed, this psak serves, in part, as the basis for the ruling of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, that providing normal childhood vaccinations is a parental obligation. HaRav Asher Weiss, shlita, poseik for Shaare Zedek Hospital, maintains it’s a mitzvah and chiyuv to get vaccinated.

HaRav Weiss further states that yeshivas have the right – and even obligation – to protect students and should not admit unvaccinated children. Both HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shlita, as well as HaRav Elyashiv have ruled that parents may insist that unvaccinated children be excluded from class so that their children are not put at unnecessary risk.

Many other gedolei Yisroel – including HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, HaRav Yehoshua Newirth, zt”l, and, yibadeil bein chayim lechayim, HaRav J. David Bleich, HaRav Reuven Feinstein, HaRav Hershel Schachter, and HaRav Mordechai Willig, shlita – have ruled that there is no basis in halacha for suggesting that vaccinations be avoided.

All strongly urge and support appropriate universal vaccination against the major childhood potentially fatal illness that are preventable. It is downright dishonest to officially declare that Jewish law forbids vaccination, which is the only way in some states to avoid mandatory state vaccination laws.

So why all the headlines, anguish, and outbreaks in heimishe circles? Why did 180 children – 80 percent of whom were unvaccinated – die in the U.S. in 2017-18 from the flu along with 80,000 adults? Why do yeshivas and camps have to close down and stop learning because of mumps outbreaks? Why were six babies hospitalized with measles in the past month at Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv? Are we living in the 1950s?

In my humble opinion – as a community rav and board-certified infectious diseases physician expert – it is because we somehow have forgotten to follow basic halacha. Halacha states that if a dispute exists on whether a patient should eat on Yom Kippur, or Shabbos desecration is necessary to save a life, we follow the most competent and/or majority of experts.

On the question of vaccinating children against the major vaccine preventable illnesses, both the most competent and the majority of experts hold the same view. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, all 50 State Departments of Health in the U.S., the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society, the American College of Physicians, plus every other major professional infection control organization in the world, are unanimous in their opinion. “Leis man depalig.” No expert organization disagrees.

The evidence is overwhelming that vaccination is the only way to control these preventable fatal diseases. B’chasdei Hashem, no one dies anymore of smallpox; polio is almost wiped out. Why? Solely because of very successful vaccination programs. Rachmana leztlan, why should anyone in 5779 die from measles???

Why are people not following these medical experts as halacha requires them to? Why are my – and your – precious children and grandchildren unnecessarily exposed to lethal illnesses and forced to take painful and additional medications and shots because of the “beliefs” of non-experts?

Imagine if parents were to insist their child come to school armed with a revolver. Would even the most ardent gun rights activist defend them? Of course not. So why are we letting children come to our shuls, schools, and camps spreading serious potentially life-threatening illness that could have been prevented by vaccination?

All the major rabbinic organizations have strongly – and properly – spoken out against physician-assisted death; I myself have recently published on this subject. Therefore, I feel compelled to publicly speak out (again) against “non-vaccination assisted death” – a cause that unfortunately does not get enough similar support. Please ask your rav to speak about this topic on Shabbos. It’s a matter of pikuach nefashos.

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Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, is chairman of the Department of Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital and clinical professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is also the assistant rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere.