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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Anti-vaxxers among those fighting to reopen early

Rita Palma, 2nd from left, a Blue Point

Rita Palma, 2nd from left, a Blue Point parent and longtime advocate, sits along with other families who are opposed to mandatory vaccination on Aug. 14, 2019. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo prepares a reopening plan slated to begin May 15 in certain industries and regions of the state, others are pressing for a full reopening to happen far sooner.

But these aren’t just businesses eager to generate revenue. Among the most vocal supporters of such a movement are those who oppose vaccination. It’s their latest battleground.

A “Rally to Free New York” is planned for Friday, at locations around the state, including at 1 p.m. in Hauppauge and at 3 p.m. in Mineola.

In flyers shared on social media, the rally has been labeled as a way to “exercise your rights to life & liberty.” While the posters don’t say who’s sponsoring or organizing the rally, the hashtags on the posters provide some light into where the support is coming from:  #OpenNY #NOIMMUNITYCERTIFICATE #NOMANDATORYVACCINE #NOMANDATEDTESTING .

Another flyer asks whether residents are “furious that the government has decided how you must live your life” or “sick of NOT being able to attend your house of worship freely.”

Some advocates are using the same phrasing anti-vax supporters have used for years: “My body, my choice.” Those on Twitter are pairing #NOMANDATORYVACCINE with #ENDTHELOCKDOWN .

“We can’t wait til May 15!!!” wrote Blue Point activist Rita Palma in a public Facebook post earlier this month. In separate posts, Palma focused on experts who’ve suggested that widespread use of the flu shot could help the United States come fall, by limiting flu cases at a time when a second wave of the coronavirus is possible. Advocacy to the White House, she wrote, should include opposing a mandated flu shot, along with addressing issues of “vax safety, vax choice [and] vax liability.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook group called REOPEN NY has more than 11,500 members, and its posts about the rally have been shared among other supporters, including groups and individuals who are anti-vax. Supporters in the group regularly express concern about mandated vaccines, in addition to their desire to reopen the economy.

Meanwhile, anti-vax activists also are looking forward, backing candidates who support their efforts. Among the latest: Bronx State Assembly candidate Chantel Jackson, who posted on Facebook last year: “We believe in democracy and requiring children to be vaccinated in order to attend school is more like a dictatorship.”

Wrote anti-vax activist John Gilmore, in a post highlighting Jackson’s views: “This is a courageous candidate.”