New York City declares health emergency over measles outbreak

Alicia Farmer
April 11, 2019

Signs advertising free measles vaccines and information about measles are displayed at the Rockland County Health Department, in Pomona, N.Y. New York City declared a public health emergency and issued an order for mandatory vaccinations on Tuesday over a "huge spike" in measles cases.

"This is the epicentre of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately", the mayor said at a press conference in Williamsburg announcing the order. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their [mumps-measles-rubella] vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".

The mandatory vaccination order follows an order from the Health Department last week requiring yeshivas and day-care programmes serving Williamsburg's Orthodox Jewish community to exclude unvaccinated children or face fines or closure.

The leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community support people getting vaccinated, but uptake of the MMR vaccine has been low in the community itself, with resistance being "fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods".

Those who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, and can not give other evidence of immunity, such as having previously had the measles, will face a fine of up to US$1,000 (S$1,300). Of those cases, at least 21 ended up hospitalized, WLNY reported.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio echoed de Blasio's comments citing the safety and effectiveness of the MMR vaccine.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no less than seven ongoing outbreaks of measles, spread across five states, in the US right now. "The vaccine has been proven safe and effective in preventing the spread of measles for decades and we have evidence".

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.

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NY has contended with measles outbreaks and the legal challenges that have arisen in efforts to contain them.

"We can not allow this unsafe disease to make a comeback here in New York City", de Blasio added. "They have been spreading unsafe misinformation based on fake science".

A recently released large-scale Danish study looked at any possible risk for autism from the MMR vaccine and the conclusion was that "MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination". "People who are immunocompromised, as well as young children and non-immune pregnant women are at highest risk for severe complications".

'I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles.

"There is no religious exemption on measles", Gary Schlesinger, CEO of Parcare Community Health Network, told WLNY.

Dr Robert Glatter is an emergency medicine physician working at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital.

The CDC says measles is highly contagious, infecting up to 90 per cent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it. Infants ages 6 to 11 months should also be vaccinated prior to worldwide travel.

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