"Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency on Tuesday and has ordered mandatory vaccinations for people who may have been exposed to the virus in parts of Williamsburg amid a growing measles outbreak", reports WCBS.
There have been 285 reported cases of measles in Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community since October, 246 of which are children, CBS New York reported Monday, citing the health department. "This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods".
Those who have not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, and can not give other evidence of immunity, such as having previously had the measles, will face a fine of up to US$1,000 (S$1,300). That compares to only two reported cases in 2017.
"I understand that parents may be afraid of getting their children vaccinated", health commissioner Barbot said.
To date, 285 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak in October, with numerous new cases being confirmed in the last two months. "The vaccine has been proven safe and effective in preventing the spread of measles for decades and we have evidence", Barbot wrote on Twitter in a personal plea.
Added de Blasio: "We can not allow this risky disease to make a comeback here in New York City". While there have been no deaths, 21 people have been hospitalized and five have gone into ICU.
"As a parent, I have no doubt that each and every parent is making decisions based out of what they believe is best for their children", said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio.
Last December, New York City ordered students who were not vaccinated against measles to be prohibited from attending classes in ultra-Orthodox schools in selected ZIP codes, but city officials have admitted the order was not effective. Among serious complications, 1 in 20 patients get pneumonia, and 1 in 1,000 get brain swelling that can lead to seizures, deafness or intellectual disability. Last week, the judge hearing their case agreed with them, stating the number of cases in the country - over 150 confirmed cases currently-didn't legally merit the need for the county's emergency order. "But as a doctor, a public health practitioner, and a mom, I must warn you that exposing your unvaccinated child to measles is very unsafe, and it could even be deadly". Newborns, pregnant individuals, and those with weakened immune systems can not get vaccinated, so it is important that everyone around them be vaccinated in order to protect them from contracting the virus and prevent severe complications in these susceptible populations.
The CDC says measles is highly contagious, infecting up to 90 per cent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to it. Called MMR, it protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
Ordering people to be vaccinated without their consent is "an extreme measure, which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment", Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a written statement.
And if infected individuals travel to other areas that also have low vaccination rates, they could "seed" outbreaks in those areas, too.