New York declares public health emergency, orders mandatory measles vaccinations

WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn -- The de Blasio Administration declared a public health emergency in select zip codes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn following a measles outbreak affecting the Orthodox Jewish community.

As part of the declaration, unvaccinated people living in the Williamsburg area who may have been exposed to measles will be required to receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in order to protect others in the community and help curtail the ongoing outbreak.

Under the mandatory vaccinations, members of the City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will check the vaccination records of any person who may have been in contact with infected patients. Those who have not received the MMR vaccine or do not have evidence of immunity may be given a violation and could be fined $1,000.

"There's no question that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving," said Mayor de Blasio. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities."

The public health emergency declaration comes just as the city's department of health threatened to close yeshivas if non-vaccinated students are allowed to attend classes during the current measles outbreak.

The outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community is now at 285 cases since it began last October.

In December, the health department ordered yeshivas and childcare centers serving the Orthodox Jewish community in the affected zip codes in Brooklyn to exclude all non-vaccinated students from attending school or daycare until the outbreak was declared over.

Then in January, one yeshiva in Williamsburg fell out of compliance with the exclusion mandate, allowing non-vaccinated children back into school or daycare.

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Candace McCowan reports that it would affect Yeshivas that allow unvaccinated children.


Officials say this single yeshiva is connected to more than 40 cases.

The health department has since issued Commissioner's Orders to all yeshivas in Williamsburg to comply with the mandatory exclusion of non-vaccinated children or face violations subject to fines and possible school closure.

"This is a public health crisis and can be stopped pretty easily," said New York City Councilman Stephen Levin.

Officials say many in Williamsburg are listening to false information about the vaccine.

"We need to make sure that there's good information that's out there, that's culturally sensitive, that is getting to the right people, to make sure that it's real scientific information so people know this is not a risk," said Levin. "Vaccinating your children is in the best interests of them and the entire community."

Measles is a highly contagious disease and can cause pneumonia, encephalitis, and in rare cases, death. There have been no fatalities in the current outbreak, and only three measles-related deaths in the past two decades.
The vast majority of cases are children under 18 years of age, while there have been 39 cases in adults.

Ahead of Passover, the health department is urging all New Yorkers, especially those in the Orthodox Jewish community, to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to prevent further spread of the virus.

Health officials say individuals traveling to areas with ongoing large outbreaks, including Israel, Europe, upstate New York, and other parts of the United States should make sure they and their children are appropriately vaccinated with MMR.

For more information on the MMR vaccine, call 311 or visit: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/measles.page
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