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New York gets tough on measles outbreak - Mandatory vaccines ordered in ultra-Orthodox Jewish area

Published:Wednesday | April 10, 2019 | 12:00 AM

NEW YORK (AP):

New York City declared a public-health emergency on Tuesday over a measles outbreak centred in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and ordered mandatory vaccinations in the neighbourhood.

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 have got measles since September. Officials blamed the outbreak on ‘anti-vaxxers’ spreading false information.

The order applies to anyone living, working, or going to school in four ZIP codes in the neighbourhood and requires all unvaccinated people at risk of exposure to the virus to get the vaccine, including children over six months old.

The city can’t legally physically force someone to get a vaccination, but officials said that people who ignore the order could be fined US$1,000. The city said that it would help everyone covered by the order to get the vaccine if they cannot get it quickly through their regular medical provider.

“If people will simply cooperate quickly, nobody will have to pay a fine,” de Blasio said.

LARGE OUTBREAK

Officials say that 285 measles cases have been confirmed in New York City since the beginning of the outbreak, the largest in the city since 1991.

New York City accounted for about two-thirds of all United States measles cases reported last week.

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 dangerous.

Anti-vaxxers Fuelling FIRE

“This outbreak is being fuelled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighbourhoods. They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science,” Barbot said. “We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk. We’ve seen a large increase in the number of people vaccinated in these neighbourhoods, but as Passover approaches, we need to do all we can to ensure more people get the vaccine.”

The commissioner is empowered by law to issue such orders in cases when they might be necessary to protect against a serious public-health threat.

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

Another Jewish religious community, north of the city but with close ties to Brooklyn, has also seen a surge, with at least 166 cases since October.