New York City declares public health emergency, orders mandatory measles vaccinations

New York City threatens to close yeshivas over unvaccinated children

Measles outbreak: NYC threatens fines for unvaccinated Williamsburg residents

New York City declared a public health emergency Tuesday over a measles outbreak and ordered mandatory vaccinations in one neighborhood for people who may have been exposed to the virus.

At the news conference for the order, City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said that the point of the firm directive is not to fine or penalize residents, but to make it easier for people to access the measles vaccine.

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

New York's mandate comes as health officials have scrambled to blunt the spread of measles. As of Monday, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that 285 cases of the illness had been confirmed in Brooklyn and Queens over the past six months.

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Officials said it will be enforced primarily by tracing the contacts of everyone diagnosed. While there have been no deaths, 21 people have been hospitalized and five have gone into ICU.

This is the largest outbreak in the city in almost three decades.

In an April 9 interview on WAMC with Alan Chartok, chief executive office of the Northeast Public Radio station, New York Governor Andrew Cumo said he thought the debate over parental rights to not vaccine their children against the right of the public to be protected would end up in the courts. "The vaccine has been proven safe and effective in preventing the spread of measles for decades and we have evidence". "The faster everyone heeds the order, the faster we can lift it". The individuals who don't agree could be liable of misdemeanor violations and incur fines.

While de Blasio did not comment on the situation in Rockland, he said he is confident that New York City's emergency order is an appropriate use of power.

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There are no strictures against vaccines in the Jewish religion and the overwhelming majority of American Jews are vaccinated. Some residents - even those who support vaccination - said they felt uncomfortable about the city pushing inoculations on people who don't want them.

There have been almost 300 confirmed measles cases in the city since the outbreak began last October, mainly in Orthodox Jewish communities in parts of Brooklyn, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). "If they have insurance it will be covered, if they don't have insurance they will only have to pay that which they can pay, if they can't afford anything it will be given to them for free", De Blasio said.

The city today declared a public health emergency in Williamsburg that has been struggling to contain a measles outbreak within the Orthodox Jewish community. While the religion as a whole does not shun vaccination, certain rabbis do discourage the practice, often having been influenced by anti-vaccination propaganda.

"There is a very strong anti-vaccination propaganda movement in these communities, and they're very effective", said Blima Marcus, a nurse practitioner who lives in Brooklyn. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".

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The city adds in its release that the majority of those infected were unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated.

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