New York orders mandatory measles vaccinations, blasts misinformation fueling outbreak

Grant Boone
April 10, 2019

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 MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the order Tuesday.

"We urge everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated", Barbot said. "But as a doctor, a public health practitioner, and a mom, I must warn you that exposing your unvaccinated child to measles is very risky, and it could even be deadly".

A woman opposed to childhood vaccinations wears a "No Vax" sign on her backpack as she takes part in a demonstration after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces, in West Nyack, New York, U.S. March 28, 2019.

In New York City late a year ago, the health department ordered yeshivas and child-care centers in the Orthodox Jewish community to bar unvaccinated students. Extreme cases show 1 in 1,000 people suffering brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage.

"Look it's a serious public health concern, but it's also a serious First Amendment issue and it is going to be a constitutional, legal question", Cuomo said. Twenty-one people have been hospitalized since the outbreak started with five people being admitted to the intensive care unit.

"I know that parents may be afraid of getting their child vaccinated, but as a pediatrician, I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles", said NYC Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

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The emergency order came as the city, a suburban ny county and some other parts of the nation grapple with a spurt in a disease the US declared eradicated nearly two decades ago.

It means that anyone who is not vaccinated and living in the area who might have been exposed to the measles will be required to receive the vaccination. Measles is easily preventable with the safe and effective MMR vaccine.

The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly-contagious disease is linked to a growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations - which the World Health Organisation has identified as a major global health threat.

The mandatory vaccination order follows one from the Health Department last week requiring yeshivas and day-care programs serving Williamsburg's Orthodox Jewish community to exclude unvaccinated children or face fines or closure.

It is the largest measles outbreak in the city since 1991.

A recently released large-scale Danish study looked at any possible risk for autism from the MMR vaccine and the conclusion was that "MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination".

New Yorkers who believe they were exposed to measles or who have symptoms of measles should contact their health care provider before seeking care to prevent exposure to other patients.

For more information, New Yorkers can visit the Health Department's Measles page.

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