Saturday, June 19, 2021

New US summer camp for Orthodox Jews bans anyone vaccinated

Anti-vaccine sentiment is persistent in pockets of the Orthodox Jewish community.

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With Covid-19 vaccines being deemed safe for children as young as 12, some summer camps are talking about the possibility of a mask-free summer for vaccinated children and staff.

But one Jewish camp being planned for the summer is taking a different approach: barring any vaccinated camper or staff from attending at all, reports the Times of Israel.

“We regret that we will be unable to accept campers or counselors who have already received any of these injections,” says the camp website.

Advertisements for Camp Hikon in upstate New York, appeared just days after a private school in Miami made news for discouraging teachers from getting the vaccine and telling children they were not to have contact with vaccinated people.

The developments suggest that anti-vaccination sentiment and Covid misinformation are taking new forms in Jewish communities where scepticism and non-compliance with public health regulations has been high.

Naftali Schwartz, the self-described “health coach” with no formal training in medicine or public health who is launching the camp, said the rule is unlikely to keep anybody away.

“Because of the kinds of demographic that I’m drawing from, most people who are coming will not have taken the vaccine,” Schwartz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Drawing on a debunked theory spread by the anti-vaccination movement, the camp’s website cites the “experimental nature” of the vaccines.

According to the theory, living in close quarters with vaccinated people could “enhance” the spread of the coronavirus.

Schwartz said he made the rule because of “suspicious symptoms that occur to unvaccinated people who have spent a lot of time in the company of vaccinated people.

“It’s also been reported to me from parents of my to-be campers that this is a real thing and it’s worrisome,” he said.

Anti-vaccine sentiment is persistent in pockets of the Orthodox Jewish community, which suffered from an outbreak of measles in 2019 after a child who had traveled to Israel spread the disease among other unvaccinated children in Brooklyn and upstate New York.

The outbreak was brought under control after New York City’s health department imposed fines on parents who refused to vaccinate their children and threatened to close religious schools that allowed unvaccinated children to attend.

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