NYC mayor orders mandatory measles vaccinations amid 'health emergency'

Man injects woman with measles vaccine

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New York City's health commissioner has declared a public health emergency over a major measles outbreak in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, with 250 cases documented in the area since September 2018.

De Blasio's vaccination order applies to all people, including children over six months old, who may have been exposed to the virus.

The city's largest outbreak since 1991 of the once virtually eradicated virus has mainly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in the borough's Williamsburg neighborhood, with 285 cases confirmed since October, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

In New York City late previous year, the health department ordered yeshivas and child-care centers in the Orthodox Jewish community to bar unvaccinated students.

New York's action comes as health officials have scrambled to blunt the spread of measles. None proved fatal, but 21 patients required hospitalisation and five were admitted to intensive care.

"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 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's true that a lot of people have measles and measles are not a very good thing, but I think the vaccine also not a very good thing", said Aron Braver, a neighbourhood resident.

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 risky.

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In a "measles party", every child becomes a carrier out in the world, allowing the disease to find new carriers and continue to spread to vulnerable people - babies too young to get vaccinations and people with compromised immune systems. "The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that people who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine".

In February, the Department expanded vaccination recommendations for providers serving the Orthodox Jewish community to include an early, extra dose of the MMR vaccine for children between the ages of 6 months to 11 months who live in Williamsburg and Borough Park.

The United States measles vaccination program began in 1963.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

The reasons for the explosion of cases among members of insular, ultra-orthodox communities has more to do with their frequent contacts with Israel, which is undergoing its own measles crisis, combined with their insularity and mistrust of government.

"This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately..." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 465 measles cases have been reported so far this year, up from 387 the week before.

"I understand that parents may be afraid of getting their children vaccinated", health commissioner Barbot said.

While the MMR vaccine is the safest and most effective method of prevent measles, it is only 97 percent effective, so population-wide immunity is a key component to protecting our most at risk New Yorkers from measles.

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