A sign advertising free measles vaccines is displayed at the...

A sign advertising free measles vaccines is displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y. on March 27, 2019. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

New York State is in a public health crisis.

But a small group of loud voices isn’t interested in facts. Instead, protesters who oppose vaccination are using intimidation, ugly phone calls, social media posts and in-person confrontations to go after state lawmakers who are seeking to address the outbreak.

Their vitriol comes as the U.S. measles outbreak has spread to 20 states, with 555 cases confirmed. Contrast that with the situation in Madagascar, where more than 1,200 people have died, and more than 115,000 have been sickened, from a measles epidemic. Mothers are begging people to give their babies a shot but the resources are lacking.

In perhaps the most egregious example closer to home, anti-vax protesters swarmed around State Sens. Kevin Thomas and Jim Gaughran during a recent unrelated news conference, even blocking Thomas’ car. Thomas is a co-sponsor of a bill that would end religious exemptions for vaccination, a much-abused loophole.

It’s one thing to disagree, with integrity, on how to confront public policy issues fraught with competing principles. That requires nuanced debate. It’s quite another for protesters with troubling agendas to aggressively and physically target state lawmakers to silence them. For shame.

What these protesters want to do is spread misinformation. This nation has no excuse for the outbreak that shows no sign of abating. Here in New York, lawmakers should not let a few loud voices influence their decision-making. Thomas is commended for standing his ground.

— The editorial board

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