Catholic University Law Review


Following the recent decision in Roman Catholic Diocese v. Cuomo,[1] clear guidance regarding the state’s powers to act during a pandemic is wanting. I look here to the 2018–2019 global measles epidemic, with a focus on the New York and Israeli experiences, for that guidance. Measles rates increased dramatically during the 2018–2019 season, both in the United States and globally. This phenomenon reflects a general decline in worldwide vaccination and an increase in vaccine resistance stoked by anti-vax groups. In the United States, the epidemic targeted ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, as it did in Israel. This Article evaluates the legal response to vaccination in the two countries, and between two neighboring ultra-Orthodox localities in New York. The research demonstrates the efficacy of differing legal responses, a novel approach to empirically assessing the impact of legal intervention. In so doing, the Article demonstrates the power of the law to help quash epidemics, demonstrating its use as a public health tool. The Article also reaffirms the constitutionality of protecting public health via governmental measures that might trespass on individual rights, such as mandating vaccination. I also discuss legal challenges mounted by the anti-vax community. Finally, and critically, this Article demonstrates the importance of lawyers being knowledgeable with epidemiological terms and principles when mounting defenses to governmental initiatives.

[1]. See Roman Cath. Diocese v. Cuomo, 141 S. Ct. 63, 68 (2020).