A midwife from Long Island has been fined $300,000 by New York state health officials after an investigation found that she falsified vaccine records for over 1,500 children.
According to the New York State Department of Health, midwife Jeanette Breen administered homeopathic pellets to children instead of vaccines, while falsely claiming in medical records that the children had received immunizations for diseases like measles and pertussis. Over a 10 year period, Breen falsified nearly 12,500 vaccine doses for the children.
This potentially put the health of thousands of children at risk, as they would not have immunity against dangerous diseases. It also impacts public health, as low vaccination rates in a community increase the risk of outbreaks.
Midwife’s Actions Discovered
Breen’s scheme was discovered after she unsuccessfully applied for a religious exemption to vaccine requirements on behalf of a child in 2021.
The New York State Department of Health opened an investigation into Breen’s practice and medical records. They found that she had ordered large shipments of homeopathic pellets from a distributor in California. She then proceeded to administer these inactive pellets to children instead of vaccines, while falsifying medical records to show vaccinations had been given.
Over 1,500 children from 18 different school districts had false immunization records linked to Breen. This included over 600 students across Long Island where she practiced.
Ongoing Health Dept Investigation
The New York State Department of Health is still investigating the scope of Breen’s actions. They have invalidated all vaccine records associated with the midwife, and are working with local health departments to notify parents that their children may require revaccination.
School districts are also reviewing the vaccine records of impacted students to confirm their immunization status. Students without valid vaccine records or exemptions may be excluded from school if the records are not corrected.
Additionally, the Erie County, NY Department of Health has opened its own investigation into Breen’s practice within that county. They will seek to identify any children under Breen’s care who lack proper immunizations there as well.
|School Districts Impacted
|Number of Students Affected
|Long Island Districts
|Other Hudson Valley/Upstate Districts
Response from Midwife’s Attorney
Breen is disputing the allegations through her attorney, Michael DerGarabedian. He claims Breen used homeopathy only at the specific request of parents, and says the state health department improperly invalidated vaccine records without due process.
DerGarabedian also argues that children given the homeopathic pellets should still be considered vaccinated, since homeopathy is meant to stimulate the immune system. Public health experts strongly disagree with this position, as homeopathic products contain no actual vaccine antigens needed to develop immunity.
Potential Legal Issues
In addition to the $300,000 fine from the Department of Health, Breen may face further legal penalties for her actions:
The New York Attorney General’s office has an ongoing civil investigation into Breen’s practice. This could potentially lead to additional financial penalties.
The Nassau County District Attorney is reportedly considering criminal charges against Breen for felony falsification of medical records. If brought to trial and convicted, this could result in jail time.
Parents of impacted children may file civil lawsuits against Breen for negligence and infliction of emotional distress due to the breach of care.
Breen may lose her midwife license and face discipline from the New York State Education Department. Her actions violated professional standards of care.
Public Health Impact
Public health experts are very concerned about the precedent this case sets. Over 1,500 children lacked proper immunizations over a 10 year period, posing risks to both them and the community.
It serves as a reminder that achieving high vaccination rates requires diligence – not just getting shots, but ensuring medical records accurately reflect immunizations received. Otherwise immunity gaps can continue unchecked, allowing diseases to spread rapidly if introduced into under-vaccinated communities.
Officials hope increased scrutiny of vaccination records and awareness from this case will close loopholes and improve vaccination compliance overall. But the scale of the risks posed by Breen’s long period of falsified records has shaken confidence at the same time.
What Comes Next
In the near term, health departments face an immense logistical challenge contacting all families impacted, correcting records, and getting children revaccinated where needed. This process could take months to fully complete.
Longer term, lawmakers may push for tighter regulations around vaccination and record auditing protocols to prevent similar negligence cases in the future.
And the communities directly affected will grapple with the fallout of trusting a dishonest caregiver. It may impact how some parents interact with the healthcare system moving forward.
Breen is scheduled for an administrative hearing related to her fine later this year. Additional legal processes related to potential criminal charges are also forthcoming.
The full story of her motivations and how she escaped scrutiny for so long has yet to emerge. But this case will likely prompt soul-searching among public health institutions well beyond New York.
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