New York City orders mandatory measles vaccines for some

Henrietta Brewer
April 10, 2019

"There's no question that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving", said de Blasio. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities". At least 285 people have contracted the disease in the city since September, mostly in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood.

The April 9 order states that anyone who "lives, works or resides" within four designated zip codes in Williamsburg "who has not received the MMR vaccine" within 48 hours of the order being issued "shall be vaccinated against measles unless such person can demonstrate immunity to the disease or document to the satisfaction of the Department that he or she should be medically exempt from this requirement". All residents in the affected areas have been told to get vaccinated or face a fine.

The city can't legally physically force someone to get a vaccination, but officials said people who ignore the order could be fined $1,000 (£767).

New York's mandate comes as health officials have scrambled to blunt the spread of measles.

New York City on Tuesday, April 9, declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations amid an outbreak, becoming the latest national flashpoint over refusals to inoculate against unsafe diseases. None proved fatal, but 21 patients required hospitalisation and five were admitted to intensive care.

The mandate orders all unvaccinated people in the area, including a concentration of ultra-Orthodox Jews, to receive inoculations, including for children as young as six months old. He was joined by city health officials who decried what they called "misinformation" spread by opponents of vaccines.

The city's health commissioner, Dr Oxiris Barbot, said that the majority of religious leaders in Brooklyn's large Orthodox communities supported vaccination efforts, but that rates have remained low in some areas because of resistance from some groups that believed the inoculations were unsafe. "We've seen a large increase in the number of people vaccinated in these neighborhoods, but as Passover approaches, we need to do all we can to ensure more people 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 infection can cause serious illness and complication in infants, pregnant women, and those compromised immune systems, she continued.

Others remained convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines were unsafe.

The worst measles outbreak since 1991 has prompted the declaration of a public health emergency in Williamsburg in which unvaccinated students won't be allowed at schools or daycares, de Blasio said.

There are large outbreaks of measles in Europe and Israel, as well as in countries in South America, Africa, and Asia. This is the second-greatest number of cases reported in the US since measles was eliminated in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Barbot said 500 people would die each year in the '60s before there was a vaccine.

The best protection from measles is to have two MMR vaccinations.

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