Hundreds of parents across New York state who thought they got their kids’ routine vaccinations are learning Thursday that may not be the case, a day after the health department announced a $300,000 penalty against a Nassau County midwife who officials say falsified immunization records.
According to the investigation, Jeanette Breen, a licensed midwife who operated Baldwin Midwifery in Nassau County, was found to have administered 12,449 fake immunizations to roughly 1,500 school-aged patients as pretext for submitting false information to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS), health officials said.
Those fake immunizations were administered before the COVID-19 pandemic so do not include vaccinations for that virus. They do, however, include fraudulent diphtheria, tetanus toxoid-containing and pertussis vaccines (DTaP or Tdap); hepatitis B vaccines; measles, mumps and rubella vaccines (MMR); polio vaccine; varicella (Chickenpox) vaccines; meningococcal conjugate vaccines (MenACWY); booster doses of MenACWY; and the Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccines (HiB) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV).
Some kids were given fake vaccines for flu and hepatitis A also, though those immunizations are not required for school attendance. See the immunization requirements for enrollment and attendance in Empire State schools here.
Students who thought they were getting vaccinated by Breen for the other illnesses now have their state immunization records voided, health officials say. The roughly 1,500 children affected across the state must be fully up-to-date with all age-appropriate immunizations or be in the process of getting their missed doses before they can return to school.
Most of the affected children are from Long Island, though the alleged scheme reached as far as Erie County, officials say. It began at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, three months after non-medical exemptions were eliminated for school immunizations. Breen gave the children a series of oral pellets marketed by an out-of-state homeopath in lieu of vaccination, the investigation found. The pellets are not authorized by the FDA, nor approved by the CDC or the state.
Suffolk County accounts for about 345 affected students, state health officials said. County officials say their health department was awaiting a list of impacted students. Families can call 631-854-0222 for assistance.
The state put Nassau County’s total a bit higher. In New York City, Queens and Brooklyn each had more than 110 students affected, according to health data.
“Misrepresenting or falsifying vaccine records puts lives in jeopardy and undermines the system that exists to protect public health,” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a statement. “Let it be clear, the New York State Department of Health takes this issue seriously and will investigate and use all enforcement tools at its disposal against those who have been found to have committed such violations.”
Children attending daycare and pre-K through Grade 12 in New York state must receive all required doses of vaccines to attend or remain in school, whether public, private or religious. Only medical exemptions are permissible.
The agreed-upon settlement reached between the state and Breen is the first of its kind addressing a scheme to create false immunization records, authorities said. It includes a $300,000 monetary penalty and requires that Breen never again administer a vaccination that must be reported to the state’s database. She is also permanently forbidden from accessing that database for any reason.
Breen declined to comment Thursday. She referred to her lawyer, who has not yet returned News 4’s call.
What schools need to do now
The Nassau County Department of Health issued a bulletin to all school superintendents, nurses and health services staff Wednesday, after the state announced the settlement, to inform them students may be in noncompliance.
Records of vaccinations purportedly provided by Breen no longer qualify as valid proof. It has been reported that impacted schools will receive further notification from the state, and a list of students who may be affected.
In the meantime:
- Exclude students who are out of compliance with vaccine rules and requirements
- Immediately report the exclusions, including the name and address of each child, to the Nassau County Department of Health
- Notify the parents or guardians of affected children of their responsibility to vaccinate