Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NY mandates vaccinations to contain measles 

New York City on Tuesday declared a public health emergency in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn because of a measles outbreak and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would require unvaccinated individuals living in Williamsburg and Borough Park to receive the vaccine as the city fights one of the largest measles outbreaks in decades. He said the city would issue violations and possibly fines of $1,000 to those who did not comply.

The order focuses on neighborhoods inhabited by large numbers of very conservative Orthodox Jews, many of whom believe vaccinations run counter to Jewish or Talmudic law, leading to low vaccination rates in some communities.

"This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately," de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday in Williamsburg. "The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested."

The city health department ordered all ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in Brooklyn on Monday to exclude unvaccinated students from classes during the outbreak.

The majority of the cases have been concentrated in Hasidic communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since Sept 30, the area has produced 285 measles cases, city officials said at a news conference on Tuesday, including 246 children. Of the 285 cases, 21 people have been hospitalized and five have been admitted to the intensive care unit.

Dr Oxiris Barbot, the New York City health commissioner, said there had been reports of "measles parties" in the area in which parents deliberately expose their children to measles so that they become naturally immune after contracting the virus. The children would then show blood immunity and could return to school.

The mayor said an estimated 1,800 children in the neighborhood are still unvaccinated, so it was "time to take a more muscular approach," he said.

"We try always to respect religious rights, religious customs, but when it comes to public health, when we see a problem emerge, we have to deal with it aggressively," de Blasio said. "We are absolutely certain this is an appropriate use of our emergency powers."

465 cases across country

David R. Curry, executive director of the Center for Vaccine Ethics and Policy, told China Daily: "Once your child is exposed and has measles, there is no better convincing argument to parents who may be questioning whether vaccinations work than when they have to come to grips with the fact that their child, because they were unvaccinated, suddenly has a potentially dangerous disease.

"That is the defining experience which is what it may take to break through with those who are not vaccinating their children," he added.

There have been 465 measles cases across the United States since the start of 2019, with 78 new cases in the last week alone, the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, said on Monday.

Measles is highly contagious, infecting up to 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it, the CDC said.

Pneumonia related to measles is the most common cause of deaths attributed to measles. Other complications include encephalitis or brain swelling and premature births.


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