Jeanette Breen outside the clinic in 2020.

Jeanette Breen outside the clinic in 2020. Credit: Johnny MIlano

This story was reported by Lisa L. Colangelo, David Olson and Dandan Zou. It was written by Colangelo.

A Nassau County midwife has been slapped with a $300,000 fine by the state Department of Health for falsifying vaccination records for almost 1,500 children, the majority from Long Island, officials said Wednesday.

The children’s immunization records have been voided and they must show they are up to date with required shots or in the process of getting them before returning to school, according to the Health Department.

Starting in 2019, licensed midwife Jeanette Breen, who runs Baldwin Midwifery, gave students a “series of oral pellets marketed by an out-of-state homeopath as an alternative to vaccination,” the Health Department said in a statement. Breen then entered the children’s records into the New York State Immunization Information System and falsely claimed the children were immunized. She administered about 12,449 fake immunizations before the state cut off her access to the system in December 2022.

The agency contacted 300 schools in the state on Wednesday morning, and in turn they will notify parents of children who had immunization cards submitted by Breen, the state said. Even more schools could be identified in the scheme that stretched across the state in more than a dozen counties, including Nassau and Suffolk, the five boroughs and Westchester, up to Erie and Saratoga.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A midwife based in Baldwin falsified vaccination records for almost 1,500 children, according to state Health Department officials.
  • Jeanette Breen gave the children homeopathic oral pellets and then filed records with the state claiming they were immunized, officials said.
  • She had to pay $150,000 immediately and could face another $150,000 fine if she tries to misrepresent an immunization again.

This is the second case of a Long Island health care practitioner falsifying vaccine records recently. Last year, the owner of an Amityville pediatric practice, Julie DeVuono, was convicted of falsifying COVID-19 vaccination records. The state Health Department is investigating whether she also faked certificates of immunization for other diseases. 

The Nassau and Suffolk health departments have advised school districts to require any child with immunization records from that practice obtain proof of vaccination from a different health care provider, though districts have backed off as parents pushed back.

The fraud by Breen began three months after the June 2019 elimination of nonmedical exemptions for required school immunizations, according to the state. It took place before the COVID-19 pandemic and did not include that vaccine.

  Jeanette Breen in 2020. She has agreed to not administer a...

 

Jeanette Breen in 2020. She has agreed to not administer a vaccination that must be reported to the state registry.

  Credit: Johnny Milano

Breen admitted to falsely saying the children were properly immunized with several vaccines including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella, polio, varicella and flu.

Health officials said the pellets were not authorized by federal or state agencies as an immunization against any disease.

She also falsely reported administering a booster for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough more than 400 times even though she never possessed the vaccine.

“Misrepresenting or falsifying vaccine records puts lives in jeopardy and undermines the system that exists to protect public health,” state Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Breen declined to comment.

In an email, her attorney David M. Eskew, of Manhattan, said: "Ms. Breen has provided excellent midwifery services for many years to many families." He added that Breen "cooperated with the Department of Health throughout their investigation, paid the fine and intends to comply with all of the requirements of the agreement."

'Deeply concerning' report

Breen agreed to pay $150,000 of the fine as part of a stipulation and order she signed, in which she also agreed to not administer a vaccination that must be reported to the state registry. The rest of her fine will be waived if she complies with the terms of the order. Any record she provides to patients about products claiming to provide immunity must clearly state they are not recognized by the government as alternatives to conventional vaccinations.

Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman called the false vaccinations report “deeply concerning,” noting that immunization is a critical public health tool.

She urged any parent or guardian with concerns about their child’s vaccination status to contact the department’s Bureau of Immunizations at 516-227-9416. 

Nassau County Council of School Superintendents Maria Rianna said in a statement that all affected school districts in the county will comply with the state Health Department's decision. "We will work with those families that are impacted to assist them in bringing their child’s required immunization records up to date so that they may return to school as soon as possible," she said.

Timothy Hearney, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, declined to comment.

Breen received her license in 1995 and was certified with prescriptive privilege as of Wednesday, according to a state database. She also has a registered professional nursing license. 

The state Education Department has the authority to pursue charges of professional misconduct against Breen’s license. A department spokeswoman on Wednesday declined to comment on Breen’s case. 

“We take all allegations of misconduct and neglect of duties against licensed professionals very seriously,” spokeswoman Keshia Clukey wrote in a statement. “However, due to confidentiality concerns, I cannot comment on a specific case.”

State officials pointed out in the stipulation document that Breen had a "history of helping patients try to avoid mandatory immunization." In 2017, she wrote a request for exemption for a hospital employee who was required to get a flu shot. Breen had met the woman once and tried to say she shouldn't have to get the vaccination since the employee was pregnant and questioned the safety of flu shots for pregnant women. State officials pointed out the flu vaccine is recommended for women who are pregnant during flu season by health experts including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In 2014, Breen received a two-year stayed suspension and two years probation from the Board of Regents for “failing to maintain accurate patient records.”

Geographic reach

Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and an expert on vaccine policy, said even though vaccine fraud is not common, there are “other incidents going on both here and around the country.”

The geographic reach of Breen’s falsification — including students from schools in New York City and in counties upstate, hundreds of miles away — indicates that word spread through anti-vaccination parents about her practice, he said.

“People don’t show up from 300 schools out of the blue,” he said.

Anti-vaccination people share tips and information via closed social media groups, Caplan said.

Caplan said alternative homeopathic medicines are not always safe. Studies have found contamination in such products, and there’s a possibility of severe allergic reactions, he said.

Children who are unvaccinated put other children — and adults and babies — at risk, Caplan said. That includes children who received authentic vaccines, because in a small percentage of those children, the vaccines are not fully effective, he said.

Diseases like the measles can be dangerous not only for some children, but for babies and older adults with whom they may come in contact, he said.

Before a measles vaccine became available in 1963, 400 to 500 people were dying from the measles every year, and nearly 50,000 were hospitalized, according to the CDC. Diphtheria killed more than 15,000 people in 1921, before vaccinations against that disease became common, the CDC says. 

Richard Carpiano, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Riverside, and an expert on vaccine uptake, said the falsification of vaccine documents is a serious offense, and Breen should lose her midwife and nursing licenses.

“She put children at risk of disease,” did not follow clinical guidelines, lied while filling out medical documents and violated the “moral, ethical conduct of practice,” he said.

Carpiano recalled that after California barred nonmedical vaccine exemptions, a small number of doctors there began writing many of the medical exemptions — even though very few children need a medical exemption. The state later increased monitoring of doctors, he said.

New contractor hired for Bethpage drums ... Blue Angels on LI ... What's Up on LI Credit: Newsday

Newsday/Sienna College poll ... Avalon Bay apartments in Amityville ... JFK travel this weekend ... Summer concert preview

New contractor hired for Bethpage drums ... Blue Angels on LI ... What's Up on LI Credit: Newsday

Newsday/Sienna College poll ... Avalon Bay apartments in Amityville ... JFK travel this weekend ... Summer concert preview

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME