As New York officials declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn this week, establishing mandatory vaccinations in an effort to stop the city’s worst measles outbreak in almost 30 years, health advocates pointed to what they believe is a major source of vaccine misinformation in the affected neighborhoods.
The false messages that they say convinced hundreds of New Yorkers not to vaccinate their children weren’t spread in a Facebook group or on YouTube, but through a glossy magazine written by and for Orthodox Jewish parents. Copies of the magazine were shared in a way that seems old-fashioned in the age of misinformation — through family, friends and neighbors.
“The Vaccine Safety Handbook” looks legitimate but is filled with wild conspiracy theories and inaccurate data. Published by an anonymously led group called Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health, or PEACH, the handbook disputes the well-established dangers of illnesses like measles and polio, challenges the effectiveness of vaccines in eradicating those illnesses, and likens the U.S. government’s promotion of vaccines to the medical atrocities of Nazi Germany.