New York City on Tuesday declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations amid an outbreak, becoming the latest national flashpoint over refusals to inoculate against risky diseases.
The city's largest outbreak since 1991 of the once virtually eradicated virus 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.
City health officials said Monday that yeshivas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that do not comply will face fines and possible closure.
Like most American states - all but three, including California - New York requires a series of vaccinations for school-age children but has until now granted exemptions on both medical and religious grounds. The cases led to 21 hospitalizations, including five admissions to intensive care units.
Health officials have been urging New Yorkers to get their children vaccinated to stem the outbreak of measles, which is a highly contagious disease that can cause pneumonia, encephalitis, and death.
"This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods".
Under the new rules, anyone who has not received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or does not have evidence of immunity risks a fine of $1,000, said a statement from the mayor's office. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 465 measles cases have been reported so far this year, up from 387 the week before.
"As a pediatrician, I know the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. They have been spreading unsafe misinformation based on fake science", he said in the news release.
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.
A pregnant woman opposed to childhood vaccinations takes part in a demonstration after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces, in West Nyack, New York, U.S. March 28, 2019. It says the vaccine is 97 percent effective.