New York City declares public health emergency, orders mandatory measles vaccinations

Grant Boone
April 10, 2019

A public health emergency has been declared in New York City as it grapples with one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades, which is centered in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

The measles outbreak has sickened 285 people in the city since October, and the rate of infection has increased over the last two months, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Tuesday news conference. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".

More than 280 people in Brooklyn and Queens have come down with measles since September.

The New York City declaration requires all unvaccinated people who may have been exposed to the virus to get the vaccine, including children over 6 months old. Anyone who resists could be fined up to US$1000. Of those infected, 246 were children, NY health commissioner Oxiris Barbot said.

A public health emergency was declared in New York City on Tuesday due to a measles outbreak - and health officials are warning against the idea of "measles parties".

The health commissioner said that "nearly all" measles cases in New York City have been associated with the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, and the outbreak is the largest since 1991.

To date, 285 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak in October, with numerous new cases being confirmed in the last two months. None proved fatal, but 21 patients required hospitalisation and five were admitted to intensive care.

"When you make the decision not to vaccinate your child, please understand you're also making that decision for the people around your child", Ms Palacio said. "They have been spreading risky misinformation based on fake science", Barbot said.

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The city's health commissioner, Dr Oxiris Barbot, said that the majority of religious leaders in Brooklyn's large Orthodox communities support vaccination efforts, but that rates have remained low in some areas because of resistance from some groups that believe the inoculations are unsafe.

"We have a situation now where children are in danger".

The CDC recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine. Newborns, pregnant individuals, and those with weakened immune systems can not get vaccinated, so it is important that everyone around them be vaccinated in order to protect them from contracting the virus and prevent severe complications in these susceptible populations.

The Brooklyn outbreak has been tied to an unvaccinated child who contracted the disease during a trip to Israel, which has recently seen a high incidence of measles, the Washington Post reported.

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the health commissioner, said that New Yorkers need to know that the MMR vaccine is safe.

Others remained convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines were unsafe.

The health department in December ordered yeshivas and daycare centers in specific Brooklyn zip codes, populated largely with ultra-Orthodox, to exclude all non-vaccinated students until the end of the current measles outbreak. It says the vaccine is 97 percent effective.

Measles can be prevented through vaccinations.

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