Unvaccinated children barred from public in New York measles outbreak
Emergency declared in Rockland County as officials strgugle to control spread of disease
A woman with a child in a stroller in a Jewish Orthodox community in the Monsey hamlet of Ramapo,New York., The move to limit the movement of unvaccinated minors in Rockland County, a suburb of New York City, is its latest effort to fight New York State’s worst measles outbreak in decades. Photograph: Bryan Anselm/The New York Times
An executive order pulled close to 6,000 unvaccinated children out of schools. Nearly 17,000 doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine were given in 26 weeks. There was a public health campaign in which community officials, doctors and rabbis testified to the importance of immunisations.
None of those efforts stemmed the severe measles outbreak that has been plaguing Rockland County in New York since October.
So on Tuesday, in an extraordinary step, the county executive Ed Day, declared a state of emergency effective at midnight, that would bar children and teenagers who are not vaccinated against measles from public places.
The outbreak has been largely concentrated in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland, many of which have close ties to Brooklyn areas where there have also been infections. In both communities, vaccination rates tend to be lower, and anti-vaccination literature has spread, public officials have said.
The declaration highlighted the desperation of public officials to control the spread of a disease they have so far struggled to halt. “We must not allow this outbreak to continue indefinitely or worsen again,” Mr Day said. “We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk.”
Rockland County, with a population of more than 300,000, has had 153 confirmed cases of measles since October. Of those, 48 have occurred in 2019. Because of the scope of the outbreak and its persistence, some public health experts said they thought the county’s action made sense. “I think this is a measure that would highlight the stakes of measles and that would put a stop to these outbreaks,” said Jason Schwartz, a professor of health policy and the history of medicine at the Yale School of Public Health.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, the founding dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, New York, a community at the center of Rockland County’s measles outbreak, said he strongly supports vaccinations, but he is worried that the county’s declaration might lead to potential harassment, attacks and discrimination against ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said he found Rockland County’s emergency order deeply problematic. “This is virtually imprisonment of a child, and certainly significantly restricting the child’s liberty,” Mr Gostin said. –New York Times Service