NY orders mandatory measles vaccinations, blasts misinformation fueling outbreak

Alicia Farmer
April 9, 2019

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.

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.

The city's largest measles outbreak since 1991 has mainly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in the borough of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood, with 285 cases confirmed since October, de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".

City health officials said Monday that yeshivas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that do not comply will face fines and possible closure.

Religious exemptions to vaccine requirements have made headlines amid recent outbreaks. The cases led to 21 hospitalizations, including five admissions to intensive care units.

Health officials have largely blamed the outbreaks on small but vocal anti-vaccine advocates who scare well-meaning parents by spreading risky lies and misinformation about life-saving vaccines and their safety.

Tuesday's announcement was the first time NY has ordered mandatory vaccinations in recent history, according to health officials. Officials there banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces last month.

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"This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods".

The Brooklyn outbreak has been tied to an unvaccinated child who contracted the disease during a trip to Israel, which has recently seen a high incidence of measles, the Washington Post reported. "They have been spreading risky misinformation based on fake science", he said in the news release.

"As a pediatrician, I know the MMR vaccine is safe and effective".

Earlier this week, the city ordered religious schools and daycare programmes serving that community to exclude unvaccinated students or risk being closed down.

New York City is just one of seven locations around the country now experiencing a measles outbreak.

On Friday, a NY state judge lifted the state of emergency imposed by Rockland County that would have barred minors not vaccinated against the measles from public places.

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