Karen O’Keefe of the New York State Policemen’s Benevolent Association tells us why she was the only member of her family to get vaccinated against whooping cough, and why she’s now suing the city to make it easier for parents who oppose vaccines to do so
Since September of 2017, at least 20 people have fallen ill with whooping cough, a highly contagious disease made more dangerous because it spreads so quickly between people.
Every second day in New York City there is a single whooping cough case, which can be prevented with vaccination.
So why does Karen O’Keefe, a 41-year-old NYPD member, not get vaccinated?
We all know where the CDC tells us the herd immunity comes from – your family members, your friends, the people around you. In New York City, they don’t recommend vaccination.
Only one member of my family, my older brother, was vaccinated, so I was one of the few that never got vaccinated.
He got the HPV vaccine when he was eight years old. He never looked back from that. He had lived the “do as I say, not as I do” life until he was 19 and went and got the immunization.
Now, because of the ACLU’s recent decision that the HPV vaccination is a vaccine for whooping cough, he asked that his oldest son be vaccinated. He got all his major medical exams done to be clear about his participation.
He never gets vaccine opponents yelling at him in school about how much they hate vaccines.
Every day there is a “whooping cough” case in New York City. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
But if he doesn’t tell them they are wrong about the vaccines, they’ll do it anyway. At the end of the day, he has the opportunity to share that he has had the vaccine with everyone who is offended.
The officer who asked me, he doesn’t even know my husband and he’s not related to my sons. I understand that he’s the only one in his division who doesn’t have the vaccine. But even if he wanted to know, he can’t. He’s technically prohibited from even asking.
New York City’s anti-vaccination policy does not provide access to vaccinations for all residents.
The city is allowing for $500 fines for parents who don’t comply with the law – which states that parents of unvaccinated children must be informed that their children will be excluded from school. The punishment for refusing vaccinations is a hefty fine of up to $500.
It’s unfair to stigmatize those who choose not to vaccinate their children.
I cannot speak for them but I did not get vaccinated. I did not think, in my own mind, that it was safe, so I didn’t. It was never a topic for discussion. I’m not at all an advocate of nonvaccination.
The law that authorizes the anti-vaccination policy makes it difficult to get exemptions. Yet unvaccinated children cannot be turned away from schools. They just have to be told that they will be excluded.
I was single because of this policy. The policy encouraged me to get married to a man who was a fully vaccinated New Yorker, so he agreed to have us join him in traveling.
That trip was horrible because the bus drivers knew who was vaccinated. They wouldn’t allow us to board in New York City because they knew that I was unvaccinated.
I believe there are many reasons that people will not get vaccinated. I would never say that people shouldn’t vaccinate, and I would never say anything to discourage parents from vaccinating their children.
However, I would like to see a change in the city policy that states that people can’t be told not to vaccinate their children.
When the vaccine is safely administered to everyone it becomes a no-brainer. When people are told not to vaccinate their children, parents have the choice to go against the laws and not immunize their children. That is a choice that they have the right to make.