The Invisible Bullet Reappears – Thanks to Anti-Vaxxers


By Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten
President of Bikur Cholim
Los Angeles, CA 

Two years ago, I wrote and published an article regarding the alarming resurgence of measles in the Orthodox Jewish community titled, “The Invisible Bullet” in which I used the hypothetical scenario of a 6 year-old child walking into his class waiving a loaded gun at his classmates as his pregnant teacher acts as though nothing is wrong.  I likened this child to an invisible bullet, as his lack of vaccinations rendered him an unknown biological threat.  My article was prompted by a measles outbreak in December 2014 traced to Disneyland that spread throughout the region; raising serious concerns by parents and lawmakers in how to implement a mechanism to protect children from being placed at risk for contagious deadly diseases including  measles, mumps, and rubella.

Months thereafter, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 277 requiring every child entering kindergarten to provide their school proof of immunization or they would not be allowed to attend.  This law designated ongoing student vaccination checkpoints at kindergarten and 7th grade, as well as with new student admissions (i.e. transferring to a new school mid-year, etc.).  Most importantly, the Personal Beliefs Exemption for religious or any other reasons would no longer apply in California.  A sigh of relief could be heard throughout the medical community and schools, as this new law empowered them to prevent non-vaccinated children from enrolling.  However, this sense of relief seems to have been premature, as these invisible bullets have reappeared.

This past weekend, on the first day of Chanukah, I received a call from Dr. Franklin Pratt, Medical Director for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health Immunization Program, who advised that just days prior, a measles outbreak was identified in the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community linked through epidemiology, social interaction, and geography.  He asked that Bikur Cholim urgently readdress and write about this issue in order to reach as many Jewish communities as quickly as possible.

How could this happen?  By the year 2000, measles was considered eradicated in the US; however in 2013 – 2014, there were as many as 21% of kindergarten students in some Jewish schools who were not immunized.  It is reasonable to conclude that last week’s outbreak was propagated by either non-immunized pre-kindergarten children not yet enrolled, and/or those enrolled prior to 2016.  For those children who were enrolled prior to 2016, there were no immunization checkpoints scheduled for them for at least 6 more years; meaning that those unvaccinated children in the school system before this time were still capable of contracting and spreading measles.

Regardless of what or when any regulations were implemented or any parents’ personal belief, no child should be allowed to remain at school or enter a play-group, whether at a home or synagogue, without proof that they’ve been immunized.  This year the UC Regents system instituted this policy for all college students enrolled; not due to any legal requirement, but strictly due to their concern for public well-being and protecting their student body and faculty.

A fundamental tenet of the Torah is to lead a healthy lifestyle.  For the child who contracts measles, even what appears to be a “mild” case, the chance exists for irreparable brain damage that could develop years later, and in severe cases, it is deadly.  When an expectant mother is exposed to measles, her unborn child is at risk of premature birth and death.  To reiterate from my first article, the efficacy of these vaccines relies on “herd immunity”; meaning that 97% of the population must be immunized to ensure that an infected person has a limited opportunity to spread disease.  This is especially vital to the 1% of the population who experience adverse physical reactions to vaccines, thus cannot be vaccinated.  And when the herd immunity is compromised, the most contagious diseases are the first to return.  We’ve seen the return of pertussis (whooping cough), mumps, and now measles.  To put this danger into perspective, measles carries the distinction of being the world’s most contagious disease.  Just one infected child in a crowd can spread measles to every other person present who hasn’t been vaccinated, leading to hospitalization and possible death.  Measles can also linger in the environment for up to 2 hours, thereby infecting susceptible people entering that area.

The medical community promotes vaccinations, and anti-vaxxer articles and studies have been recanted and debunked as patently false.  However, while we all have freedom of choice, that freedom does not entitle one to endanger the lives of others, especially our children.

The observant community looks to its Rabbinical and educational leaders for guidance, and there are substantial Halachic sources supporting vaccinations which should be championed on behalf of children and our society.  The disappointing fact that this latest outbreak is centered in the Jewish community is alarming, and speaks to the need for our leadership to take a proactive role in ensuring the health and safety of our children and families.  Rabbis, school administrators, and physicians need to establish policies that go beyond legislation to ensure that no unvaccinated children are allowed to attend school or synagogue; and if a child is identified as non-immunized, they should be immediately sent home until they have proof of vaccination.

If you suspect your child may have been exposed to or is symptomatic of measles, (i.e. fever, rash, cough, watery/itchy eyes, runny nose) or any other highly communicable diseases, please immediately call your pediatrician’s office to discuss how best to proceed.  Most importantly, limit your child’s exposure to others, including visits to ERs and urgent care centers until you have received medical advice.

With the serious threat of measles returning to our doorstep, I am hopeful that our leadership will continue their efforts to protect and safeguard our children and the public at large.



      • Anon used harsh language, but he is in essence correct about that they pose a danger to others. Also, if you mean he should educate himself about vaccinations, you should do the same. The fact that in the velt believe in the anti-vax nonsense points to a Chareidi herd mentality that I, as a long-time choizer beteshuvah, find very disturbing.

  1. Very important message. There are many uneducated people who easily fall prey to the anti- vaxx propaganda, unable to see through the foolishness of their ideas.

    • Adaraba. It’s all these “educated” people who fall prey to the misinformation given about the diseases and the risk of vaccinations and even pharmaceutical drugs in general who are foolish. If you read about the history of medicine in the US, you’ll see that the Flexner report changed things so that the oil companies – almost all pharmaceuticals are petrochemical based – who commissioned Flexner to write the report have really taken over the medical system. And for the most part that is to the detriment of the public. They pushed out any natural ways of healing – remember it’s Hashem Who does the healing anyway – and so effective ways get shoved into the category of “quack medicine” when in fact, more people die from pharmaceuticals than some major diseases. 100,000 per year!!!

      • Complete and utter nonsense! Not everything is a conspiracy, and conspiracies can themselves be utterly contrived and manufactured. You seem like the type to fall for these lock, stock and barrel! I pity your kinderlach to have a such a suspicious, cynical, and naive mother!

      • so you question Modern Medicine?
        Do you give the same rigorous suspicion towards the “natural ways of healing?
        Remember its not the Pharmaceutical companies who are lobbying not to be regulated. Its the Vitamin/supplement/herbal etc. Companies that are lobbying not to be regulated more heavily!!!!

    • Did you even read the article? The author explicitly states that he was asked to write it by “Dr. Franklin Pratt, Medical Director for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health Immunization Program”.

  2. I am always baffled by some frum people quoting this godol or that rebbe, who, purportedly told them not to vaccinate. Somehow, the details of whether that was a generalized psak, or a very specific advice for a particular child, and if it included all vaccines or a certain one, get lost in transmission.
    Besides all that, do these people ask their rabbeim tax advice, eye glass prescriptions, car purchase, and other issues that could effect their health, lives, or freedom?
    No, they go to professionals, trained in those fields. Suddenly, the gedolim, who themselves always go to the best physicians, and rightly so, are asked to become pediatricians, epidemiologists, statisticians, infectious disease specialists, and foremost experts in preventative medicine.

    • Exactly! Why has “Daas Torah” become conflated with asking a Gadol about every minor thing, whether how to brush one’s teeth, button a shirt, or other such things. Its made Chareidi Jews a laughingstock. Daas Torah is reserved for providing the Gedolim’s views on important non-halachic issues, not a crutch for the weak-minded who cannot make decisions for themselves!

  3. If the vaccine is so effective why has Merck been in the US court system for the last SIX years trying to defend the efficacy of the vaccine. The fault of the outbreak is that the vaccine has a low efficacy rate. You should be berating Merck and not the so-called parents who don’t vaccinate!!!

    Why don’t you go and make a Kol Koray against merck. Demand that they make more effective vaccines.

  4. Bad analogy: measles go away, a loaded handgun kills permanently dead. We don’t want government in our home. Go back to your country.

    • The government must step in where other options are unavailable. Would you want the US government not to help in natural disasters/tragedy’s because of government intrusion? seriously could private industry upkeep all the roads in the country if they were privatized? sometimes the government is the only really solvent or semi-solvent option! or in general the best option!

  5. To all the naysayers, anti-vaxxers and those who are not medical professionals, please go and get yourself educated from MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. Speak to whoever and however many you want, but you will not find ANY who say not to vaccinate today (unless you have a specific exception). It may not have 100% efficiency, but any preventative affect way outweighs the problems society faces from the outbreaks.

  6. Ebola has just been rendered “100% curable” by a new vaccine.
    HIV can now be lived with indefinitely.
    Smallpox has been eradicated.
    Polio is unheard of.
    The average lifespan is decades longer than it was a hundred years ago.

    Yet there is a significant anti-vaxx movement even in the frum community? Do they believe the above facts (and countless more similar ones) are only coincidental or perhaps despite inoculations? What kind of insanity is this?

    • To your name,
      Because its the government who gets the bill for the cleanup if someone dies in a accident! think of it as the government preventing potential costs that it is held responsible for!

      • Actually, that is incorrect. It’s the insurance companies that potentially have to shell out the gelt. The “Big government” does it for one reason and one reason only. Revenue revenue revenue and then some more revenue. The government couldn’t give a crap about yours or my safety. They used this ruse on the dumb stupid gullible taxpayers to collect an extra taxe all in the name of “we are concerned for your safety and security because you’re too dumb and stupid to figure it out by yourself. Wake up man.

  7. If I have a guard around my house, I dont worry about robbers & dont care if others protect themselves.

    so if you vaccinated yourself, why do you care if others didn’t

    (obviously you know for yourself that it doesnt work!)

    • Even if you are willing to accept the danger of being unvaccinated, you are endangering:
      -Your kids (assuming you don’t get them vaccinated, either)
      -Others who refuse to be vaccinated
      -The 1% of the population who can’t be vaccinated for medial reasons (see the above article)

      A better analogy would be: If you refuse to guard your house and robbers enter your neighbors’ attached houses through your unguarded doors and windows, then yes, you are harming others.

      • Perhaps people who feel unwell should stay home, and children who are unwell should be kept home, whether it’s a cold, the flu or something else. By the way that 1% or whatever it is, are put at life-threatening risk by any common cold, for which there is no vaccine.

    • learn how vaccines prevent disease!!!!!!!! Not vaccinating reduces herd immunity. By NOT vaccinating it increases the odds of the spread of a specific virus and of the virus mutating. which then can infect the people who vaccinated in the first place!!!!!!!!! not vaccinating should be reserved only for those with medical exemptions. real medical exemptions . otherwise the government should make it illegal!

      • You mean that one doesn’t have the right to decide if to put a toxic substance into their body or the body of their child? Have you ever seen pictures of vaccine injured children? Do you even know that the government has a special Vaccine Court that has paid out a lot of money to vaccine-injured children? Do you know that the risk of death from the illnesses are many times lower than the risk of dying from the vaccine? Yes, people, kids dies from vaccines, especially the Gardisal one, but all of them. Did anyone know that 70% of SIDS deaths occurs within three weeks of a vaccination? If we are told in the Torah to guard our lives, how can we put into our children something that puts their lives at risk MUCH MORE than the diseases that everyone is so afraid of and which are not nearly as deadly?

  8. Unfortunately Rabbi Ten has many facts wrong in the above article. The first point I would like to make is if you have so much confidence in the effectiveness of vaccines, then why are you concerned about a small percentage of unvaccinated children and labeling them as bio hazards? So a healthy unvaccinated child is a bio hazard and a threat to the vaccinated children???????? The real bio hazard is the kid or adult who was vaccinated for pertussis. They will not show any symptoms but are still able to culture pertussis in their throat and spread it. Additionally they will now help foster and spread more pathogenic strains of pertussis due to selection pressure caused by the vaccination. Measles is rarely a fatal disease except in third world countries were malnutrition and starvation is rampant as is the case with many other diseases. It is amazing how Rabbi Ten is aiding and abetting a tyrannical law imposed by the state of California (SB77) which strips the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children, removes religious rights, and essentially grants the state ownership of your children.

  9. If you can’t trust the medical professionals regarding vaccination, how can you trust them when they tell you, chas v’chalila, that you need a bypass surgery?

  10. I don’t “trust” “medical professionals” and neither should you or anyone else. You should make medical decisions based on the doctrine of informed consent after evaluating the information for your self. If a doctor advises you to to anything risky like a bypass or any other kind of surgery, you should go for a second opinion and even a third or fourth opinion unless it is an emergency situation.

  11. People are totally naive and unaware of the fact that Big Pharma pushes vaccines that have very limited efficacy and have been implicated as directly causal in cases of autism, retardation,etc due to the toxins they contain and the excessive number of vaccines inflicted on babies who are just developing. People seem to overlook that even the CDC has had whistle blowers come forward saying they falsified and suppressed data showing a connection between autism and vaccines. It is far better that a child develop natural immunity to measles or mumps after succumbing to a mild illness, which is the case for 99% of all children then to risk over vaccination by government mandate. And if vaccines are so effective, why should the author of this article consider the minority of children not vaccinated as a bio-hazard–it is completely contradictory logic?!

  12. Rabbi Ten with all due respect, your characterization of SB277 is dead wrong. This bill which eliminated the religious exemption to vaccination in the state of California is a dangerous attack on religious liberty. If tomorrow the California Health department decides that Bris Mila or Metzizah Bepeh is unsafe will you also breath a sigh of relief when they outlaw those procedures. You do not realize what a slippery slope this legislation has created in terms of relinquishing the autonomy of our and our children’s bodies to the state. According to Robert Kennedy this is not simply a California Issue. The effort to rescind Religious exemptions for vaccines is being waged in many states. It is being backed by various so called “non profit organizations” that are discreetly funded by Pharmaceutical companies. I would like to know why you as president of Bikur Cholim are supporting this agenda. Is Bikur Cholim receiving grant money from any pro vaccine “non profit” organizations. Is Bikur Cholim receiving money from either the state of California or the City of Los Angeles??? If the answer is yes then there is a serious conflict of interest on your part which requires disclosure.

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