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Howard Zucker: The Anti- Anti-Vaxxer

As measles outbreaks mainly in New York’s Haredi communities raged, Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, met with Orthodox rabbis, visited religious summer camps and lobbied the legislature to eliminate the religious exemption for vaccination. Zucker, 60, who completed medical school at 22 and is also a lawyer qualified to argue before the Supreme Court, has been New York’s commissioner since 2014, after serving as second-in-command at the World Health Organization.

With more than 1,000 cases in New York alone, Zucker’s efforts helped the U.S. maintain its measles-elimination status, meaning that the country can say officially that there is not continuous spread of the disease, only outbreaks. His department did its best to walk a fine line: Stop measles in the Haredi community without playing into the community’s deep-set fears of government intervention. “I see this as part of a larger war against science-based reality,” Zucker told The New Yorker. “We need to study vaccine hesitancy as a disease.”

Howard Zucker

Howard Zucker

Breakfast Oatmeal, a bagel and orange juice.

What is the last thing you listened to on your phone? An audiobook — “The Body,” by Bill Bryson.

Earliest Jewish memory: Reading the Four Questions at Passover. Because I was the youngest member of my generation in my family, I had this role for many years.

Heroes: My mother and father. My father died in 2019, at the age of 99 years and seven months. My mother continues to inspire me, and I am thankful for the joy that she brings my children.

2019 memory: The birth of my daughter, Sadie.

What is your favorite thing about being Jewish? Carrying on a historical tradition that dates back thousands of years. The food is excellent, too.

What app can you not live without? Whatever app will play Baby Shark.

Weekend ritual: Visiting my mom, so she can be with their grandchildren — and they with her — as they grow.

Read some of the Forward’s 2019 measles coverage:

Why Do Some Ultra-Orthodox Jews Defy Their Rebbes And Refuse Measles Vaccines?

Hasidic Measles Emergency In New York Suburb Blindsides Latino Domestic Workers

We Read The Guide Fueling Ultra-Orthodox Fears Of Pig Blood In Measles Vaccines

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