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

Desiree Burns
April 9, 2019

New York's mayor has declared a public health emergency following a measles outbreak.

As part of the declaration, people living in select zip codes of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood who have not been vaccinated against measles and may have been exposed to the virus will now be required to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

"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", de Blasio said in the statement.

The city threatened to close Orthodox Jewish schools in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, where many parents have refused or neglected to vaccinate their children.

It is the largest measles outbreak in the city since 1991.

The Brooklyn outbreak is part of a broader resurgence in the USA, with 465 cases reported in 19 states so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cases led to 21 hospitalizations, including five admissions to intensive care units.

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Two Brooklyn moms whose kids all had measles blasted city officials for ordering mandatory vaccinations against the disease on Tuesday.

Most of the NY cases involved unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated individuals, according to De Blasio's office.

People who resist could be fined $1,000.

Health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot blamed those against vaccines for causing the outbreak. Officials in New York City were no different in their blame.

"This outbreak is being fuelled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighbourhoods". He was joined by city health officials who decried what they called "misinformation" spread by opponents of vaccines. She added that the city will help unprotected individuals secure affordable and accessible vaccination, and emphasized that vaccination is safe and effective. "We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk".

On Friday, a NY state judge lifted the state of emergency imposed by Rockland County that would have barred minors not vaccinated against the measles from public places.

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