Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the unusual order amid what he said was a measles "crisis" in Brooklyn's Williamsburg section, where more than 250 people, mostly members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious community, have gotten measles since September. "Back in the day people were having parties to expose their kids to chicken pox and measles".
A dead or weakened form of the virus is injected into a child, stimulating antibodies to recognize the virus without making them sick.
Officials claimed to have eliminated the disease in 2000 but it has returned after anti-vaccination campaigns led to a drop in vaccination rates.
Officials said they would help people arrange to get shots but were prepared to fine them as much as $1,000 if they refused.
"When people choose not to get their children vaccinated, they are putting their children and others - such as pregnant women, people on chemotherapy, and the elderly - at risk of contracting measles", Herminia Palacio, NYC's deputy mayor for health and human services, said in the release.
The nation's largest metropolis is just one of many cities grappling with the return of measles, often fostered by "anti-vaxxer" sentiment that causes parents to forgo the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
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"There is no religious exemption on measles", Gary Schlesinger, CEO of Parcare Community Health Network, told CBS New York.
'We will make sure that everybody who is allowed will be vaccinated, ' Rabbi David Niederman, the president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, said in a phone interview. 'The schools are cooperating, everyone's cooperating'. 'They will do anything and everything to improve the health of their children'.
He said he had seen misinformation circulate around the tightly knit community, but that most families trusted the Health Department.
Schlesinger is working with the Orthodox community to reverse the spread of false messaging.
Battling a fast-growing measles outbreak, New York City has declared an emergency and ordered mandatory vaccinations under threat of fine in a Brooklyn neighborhood where the disease is spreading. Most have been in Hasidic Jewish communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn.
Health officials made a specific point to condemn the resurgence of "measles parties", get-togethers where parents gather unvaccinated children with kids already suffering with measles in order to intentionally infect the group at a young age.
"This is the epicentre of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately", de Blasio said. Last week, the judge hearing their case agreed with them, stating the number of cases in the country - over 150 confirmed cases currently-didn't legally merit the need for the county's emergency order. The order is being appealed by Rockland officials. Cases have been reported in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.