New York orders mandatory measles vaccinations, blasts misinformation fueling outbreak

Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio

New York City on Tuesday declared a public health emergency amid a measles outbreak in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

Since last fall, almost 300 people, mostly children, have come down with measles in New York City, with the majority centered in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn.

Officials blamed the outbreak on so-called anti-vaxxers who have spread false information.

As part of the declaration, people living in select zip codes of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood who have not been vaccinated against measles and may have been exposed to the virus will now be required to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

"This is the epicentre of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately", Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said.

The CDC has said that in the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, almost all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age and that an estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year.

"We are concerned about families having measles parties", New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said at a news conference, emphasizing that "we live in a different world now".

There have been almost 300 cases of measles in the city, particularly concentrated in Orthodox Jewish communities in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Buzzfeed News reports.

It is the first time New York City has ordered mandatory vaccinations in recent history, according to health officials.

Cases have also been confirmed in Auckland and Christchurch.

In a statement by the city's health department, Brooklyn Rabbi David Niederman said, "It says in the Torah "V'nishmartem Meod L'nafshoseichem"-a person must guard their health".

According to the health agency, the outbreak had originated from a group of unvaccinated tourist who had traveled to Israel just recently. They blamed the spike partly on anti-vaccine campaigns spreading misinformation that immunizations are unsafe.

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

"We can not ignore the number of people becoming sick from the Measles in NY", said State Sen.

USA cities have fined residents before for not being vaccinated, but "not in our modern history", said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown Law professor focused on public health law. This vaccine is safe.

"It's a war zone", said the doctor who said he had seen over a hundred patients who hadn't been vaccinated but asked for anonymity for fear of jeopardizing his practices.

"And it's everybody's option to do what he wants".

The city also warned that yeshiva religious schools and day care programs serving the local Orthodox Jewish community would face penalties and possible closure if they keep taking in students who are not vaccinated against measles, which can cause severe diarrhoea, pneumonia and vision loss and can potentially be fatal. The NYC DOH also confirmed two cases of measles in Flushing, Queens. Coughs and sneezes from infected people are one of the fastest ways the disease spreads. The authorities in Rockland wanted to ban unvaccinated children last, in public places such as shopping centers, schools, or Restaurants to stop. What's more, another outbreak is ongoing in the New York county of Rockland, which is north of New York City. It says the vaccine is 97 percent effective.

"Measles is a highly contagious disease", Glatter said. "Specifically, for the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccines which are now in use, we ensured that all doses planned have been procured, despite inflation of vaccine costs".

Filipino Health Officials have earlier determined that the public's hesitancy in getting immunization for children following the anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia fiasco aggravated the already low immunization coverage in the country.