Medicine

NY orders measles vaccinations in Brooklyn amid outbreak, mayor says

NY orders measles vaccinations in Brooklyn amid outbreak, mayor says

In declaring a public health emergency, Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot said the number of cases diagnosed within certain zip codes of Williamsburg "continues to grow as new cases are still occurring" and that he deemed this to be an "existing threat to public health in the City of NY".

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

Now any school out of compliance will immediately be issued a violation and could be subject to closure, the Mayor's office said. Violators could face a fine of $1,000, officials said.

"If anyone is thinking of a legal challenge we are absolutely comfortable that we will win that case", de Blasio said. "But as a doctor, a public health practitioner, and a mom, I must warn you that exposing your unvaccinated child to measles is very risky, and it could even be deadly".

NY accounted for about two-thirds of all measles cases reported last week in the United States. None proved fatal, but 21 patients required hospitalisation and five were admitted to intensive care.

Government pushes for inoculations and public space bans of unvaccinated children have prompted a backlash among anti-vaccination activists, whose misinformation campaigns have led to declines for vaccinations against one of the world's most contagious diseases. All but 39 of the confirmed cases are in children. He was joined by city health officials who decried what they called "misinformation" spread by opponents of vaccines. Those who are uninsured will pay what they can afford, de Blasio said, and those who cannot afford the vaccination will receive it for free. Most cases have been reported from Williamsburg and Borough Park - two Brooklyn neighborhoods with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish populations, in which vaccination rates tend to be lower.

Measles "parties" stems from the once-popular trend of "pox parties" - intentionally exposing children to chickenpox, before the Varicella vaccine was rolled out in 1995.

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That's the point of vaccines - safe ways of making people immune to infections with limited side effects.

There are large outbreaks of measles in Europe and Israel, as well as in countries in South America, Africa, and Asia.

The United States measles vaccination program began in 1963.

"I understand that parents may be afraid of getting their children vaccinated", health commissioner Barbot said.

The outbreak is part of a broader resurgence in the United States, with 465 cases reported in 19 states so far this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health department in December ordered yeshivas and daycare centers in specific Brooklyn zip codes, populated largely with ultra-Orthodox, to exclude all non-vaccinated students until the end of the current measles outbreak.

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