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ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York, March 27, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – As several areas of the United States are contending with outbreaks of measles, one county in New York has taken the dramatic step of banning unvaccinated minors from entering any public places – including houses of worship.

Rockland County, New York is currently in the midst of a measles outbreak the county calls “larger in size and duration than any outbreak of that disease in this County in many years,” endangering infants and people with compromised immune systems.

CNN reports that there have been 153 confirmed cases since October (out of 314 cases reported nationwide this year); county spokesman John Lyon said it’s the longest American outbreak since before the disease was thought to have been eliminated in 2000.

PETITION: Stop NY county banning unvaccinated kids from churches, public places. Sign the petition here.

So from now until April 25, the county is forbidding unvaccinated minors from “enter[ing] any place of public assembly in Rockland County,” unless they are immune, medically barred from immunization, or younger than six months, according to the state of emergency declaration released Tuesday by Rockland County Executive Edwin Day. “A place of public assembly shall be a place where more than 10 persons are intended to congregate” for any reason, including “religious functions.”

Lyon said that the ban will be enforced not by proactively interrogating people in public places, but if an incident of measles infection is traced back to an area in which an unvaccinated minor was present. Parents in such cases will be referred to the district attorney and potentially face a $500 fine and six months in prison.

“The goal is not to prosecute people. We don't want to fine people. We want to encourage people to get vaccinated,” Lyon insisted. “Just to be clear, this is not something we're looking to do. The emergency declaration, by law, comes with that assigned. It's the lowest crime there is.”

“State law gives health departments authority to broadly implement control measures in response to outbreaks,” Centers for Disease Control (CDC) spokesman Jason McDonald said.

But while the media fixates on a small minority of parents who oppose vaccines over fears about side effects, they overlook another group that supports vaccines in general while having an ethical conflict with vaccines derived from aborted babies’ cells.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently approves a number of vaccines produced using two cell lines, MRC-5 and WI-38, obtained from 1960s-era elective abortions. Some families choose not to vaccinate their children against certain diseases because the only vaccines available for them in the U.S. are derived from these lines.

However, ethical alternatives do exist and could resolve the problem. “Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines can all be produced in non-fetal cell lines,” molecular biologist and Charlotte Lozier Institute scholar Dr. Tara Sander Lee told Congress in December. “The Measles vaccine is produced in chicken eggs, human amnion cells from term placentas, and human kidney cultures from surgical samples […] Fetal cell lines are still in use today in the U.S. However, an ethical alternative is available in Japan.”

The current outbreak “should not be used to justify eliminating the legal right to exercise informed consent to vaccination, which is protected by the inclusion of flexible medical, religious and conscientious-belief vaccine exemptions in public health laws,” National Vaccine Information Center president Barbara Loe Fisher told Axios, adding that 100 measles cases out of a 320-million population “is not a public health emergency.”

 Somewhat undermining the urgency necessitating such a draconian ban was the county’s rationale for not applying it to unvaccinated residents older than 18: “we did not want to prevent anyone from going to work.”

Nevertheless, Rockland Catholics are unlikely to get substantial support from church leaders; after a Catholic family sued Kentucky health officials for banning their 18-year-old son from finishing the basketball season because of their refusal to vaccinate him against chicken pox (due to the vaccine’s abortion-related origins), the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Life simply defended the use of abortion-derived vaccines until replacements can be developed.