Things That Matter

A Judge In NY Has To Decide If Unvaccinated Children Should Be Allowed In School Risking The Lives Of Other Children

Just two months ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that mandates vaccination for children old enough to attend schools, and participate in education with other children, unless otherwise advised by a doctor. The legislation came after the spread of misinformation about vaccines caused a series of measles outbreaks in the spring. Scientific literature based on decades worth of data from tens of thousands of children has proven vaccination safe and effective for the public.

Attorney’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Michael Sussman filed a class action suit for about three dozen parents who claim that vaccinating their children goes against their faith. Wednesday, Albany courtrooms were packed with over 1,000 anti-vaxxers who wanted to hear how the judge would rule in a debate around religious freedom vs. public health.

The crowd of anti-vaxxers wore white in reference to the Argentine mothers who wore white as they protested their government’s brutal killings and disappearances of their liberal children.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

The anti-vaxxers feel that the implication of the government forcing them to vaccine their children from measles is tantamount to the Argentine government killing or “disappearing” 30,000 young, leftist political activists from existence in the 1970s. 

In April 1977, 14 mothers, wearing images of their missing children’s faces around their neck, marched around the Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. They took a stand against a violent government in a defiant act to demand justice for their children.

These New York parents also feel the law doesn’t allow enough time to find proper education for their children. 

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

The demonstrators told Gothamist reporters, Gwynne Hogan and Claire Lampen, that “the new law effectively disappeared their children from the school system.” If the religious exemptions aren’t upheld, their alternative would be to homeschool their children or move to a different state.

“[We’re] hoping that our kids are granted the right to go back to school. Our children have been kicked out,” Long Island mother Amy McBride, 41, told Gothamist. “We’ve all been meeting, trying to look at curriculums, understand how to make it work, what the regulations are, understanding what it takes to actually do that…Our beliefs are steadfast and sincere and true and we’re not going to cave.”

The lawyers in the case argued that legislators demonstrated “active hostility toward religion.”

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

“[These children] are going to have nowhere to go to school…They have no idea what they are going to do with these children,” Sussman said. New York State attorney Helena Lynch refuted that claim. “The actual legislative record is so clear that the motivation was public health,” Lynch said. “The right to religious expression does not encompass the right to place others in danger.”

Lynch also expressed that legislators aren’t targeting religious groups but are genuinely “skeptical” that those choosing not to vaccinate their kids were expressing personal beliefs rather than religious ones. The crux of the argument seems to rest on public health risk for allowing the religious exemption, especially when an approximate 26,000 children would be unvaccinated in New York schools.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman from Manhattan, specifically wanted to eliminate the religious exemption as the key reason for the recent spread of measles.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

You have a First Amendment right to practice your own religion, but you do not have the right to endanger your children or worse other people’s children,” he told a press conference. Already, 14 percent of pre-school aged children in Williamsburg are estimated to be unvaccinated for religious reasons or otherwise. Another 28 percent in Rockland County were unvaccinated.

The anti-vaxxers expressed that they wished New York followed in California’s suit by allowing a year for the law to take effect. But public health advocates cite a sense of urgency for public safety measures, “This needs to be done, not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month, and not in a year,” said one activist. “It must be done immediately, the numbers are gaining strength.”

Crowds packed even this overflow room as they waited for the judge’s answer.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

They never heard it. Judge Hartman hasn’t made her decision yet about whether to allow 26,000 unvaccinated children go to New York schools in time for school start dates just three weeks from the hearing. The anti-vaxxers want her to put a stay on the state law which would allow those children to go to school while she continues to hear the case and make a final, permanent decision.

READ: A 12-Year-Old Mexican Boy Hilariously Trolled Anti-Vaxxers In This Viral Video

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

Separated from her mother for a decade, seventeen-year-old Cindy (who is only being identified by her first name) took a chance last month to see her. Despite her age, a raging pandemic, and the risks of crossing the Mexico–United States border she journeyed from Honduras to see her mother in New York. Her love for her mother was so deep, she was willing to risk everything.

In her mission, Cindy wound up in U.S. immigration facilities where she contracted Covid-19. After three days in a hospital bed in California, Cindy was finally able to contact her mother who had not learned of her daughter’s hospitalization.

Thanks to the help of a doctor who lent her their phone Cindy was able to make the call to her mother, Maria Ana.

“There are backlogs and delays in communication that are really unacceptable,” Maria Ana’s immigration lawyer Kate Goldfinch, who is also the president of the nonprofit Vecina, explained to NBC.

After learning about her daughter’s COVID-19 hospitalization, Maria Ana feared the worst. “Following weeks of anguish and uncertainty, Maria Ana spent most of her nights painting the bedroom she has fixed for Cindy, just ‘waiting for my girl,'” she explained to NBC.

Last Wednesday night, Maria Ana flew to San Diego to be with her daughter after she’d finally recovered from Covid.

At the emotional mother-daughter reunion, Maria Ana assured her daughter “no one else is going to hurt you.”

After Cindy crossed the border, she spent several days in a detention facility in Texas in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. According to NBC “On any given night, Cindy said, she would share two mattresses with about eight other girls. She could shower only every five days in one of the eight showers the facility had to serve 700 girls.”

“It was really bad,” Cindy told the outlet..

Cindy was among almost 13,350 unaccompanied children left in the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS. This last year has seen over 3,715 unaccompanied children at these facilities diagnosed with Covid-19. Worse, there are currently 528 unaccompanied children who have tested positive for Covid-19 and put in medical isolation.

Now, immigration advocates and families are pressing the U.S. government to pick up reunions of children and their families in the United States. Over 80 percent of unaccompanied minors currently in federal custody have family living in the states. According to Goldfinch, “40 percent have parents in the U.S.”

“So we would think that it would be fairly quick and simple to release a child to their own parent. But because of the chaos of the system, the reunification of these kids with their parents is really frustrating and backlogged,” Goldfinch explained, “most frustrating, of course, for the actual children and their parents.”

While Cindy was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, no one managed to notify Ana Maria that her daughter was in the hospital according to Goldfinch

“I don’t know why my daughter has to be suffering this way, because it’s not fair. It’s something very sad for me,” Maria Ana explained to NBC

“I’ve already been through a lot,” Cindy went onto share. “But I hope it’s all worth it.”

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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