Baldwin midwife Jeanette Breen faked the students' vaccine records.

Baldwin midwife Jeanette Breen faked the students' vaccine records. Credit: Johnny MIlano

About 1,500 students statewide — including hundreds on Long Island — were barred from attending school in January because they had not received required vaccines, including long-standing, trusted immunizations such as MMR, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Those students, and their parents, had gone to Baldwin midwife Jeanette Breen, who faked the students' vaccine records and gave them “oral pellets” — a homeopathic treatment marketed as a legitimate vaccination alternative, which it is not. Licensed midwives can become certified to administer some vaccines and prescribe medication.

Last week's Newsday analysis of state Department of Health records unveiled the breathtaking scope of Breen's fraud. The data reveals a painful truth: By avoiding safe and effective vaccinations required by state law, Breen and hundreds of Long Island parents who used her services put the public's health at risk. They showed a complete disregard for their own children, for other students and teachers, and most especially, for anyone who is immunocompromised or otherwise cannot be vaccinated and relies on everyone else to keep them safe.

Breen isn't alone. Last month, a Monroe County nurse practitioner was disciplined for creating false vaccine records for 116 children. Additional similar examples likely exist.

Breen had a frighteningly broad reach, affecting students of all ages at 289 schools statewide. Of the 201 on Long Island, four were private and the rest were spread among 81 of our 124 public school districts. Local health officials previously said that 397 Nassau County students and 273 Suffolk County students had vaccine records through Breen deemed fraudulent.

Parents embraced efforts like Breen's after the State Legislature in 2019 appropriately banned the oft-misused religious exemption to vaccination. Breen's actions show the breadth of misinformation and disinformation surrounding vaccination, buoyed by a deep-seated fear that feeds the exploding anti-vax movement on Long Island.

This was an egregious example of how tough it is to battle that sentiment. But we must combat it. The State Health Department was right to bar unvaccinated students from school until they provided new proof of immunization. Some — about 100 in Suffolk — now are home-schooled. State officials must consider additional steps. Health Department officials recently have tried to make it easier for parents to get children vaccinated by widening the number of people who can administer them. But the state may have gone too far. The department should carefully consider who can give the shots and whether additional certifications for health care professionals, or signoffs from a physician, are needed.

Additional regulation, enforcement and education efforts are necessary. Meanwhile, state education officials must deactivate Breen's midwife license and prescription certifications; she should not be practicing health care.

This is about Long Island's children. Their parents should accept science, trust the safe and effective vaccines upon which we've long depended, recognize the larger importance of public health, and put the common good above unfounded individual fears. That, in turn, will protect us all.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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