New York's mayor declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn on Tuesday, ordering all residents to be vaccinated to fight a measles outbreak concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
"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 [mumps-measles-rubella] vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".
At least 285 people have contracted measles in the city since September, and the order covers four Zip codes in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood where the vast majority have originated, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. New York City accounted for about two-thirds of all United States measles cases reported last week.
The majority of religious leaders in Brooklyn's large Orthodox communities support vaccination efforts, said the city's health commissioner, Dr Oxiris Barbot, but rates have remained low in some areas because of resistance from some groups that believe the inoculations are unsafe. "We've seen a large increase in the number of people vaccinated in these neighbourhoods, but as Passover approaches, we need to do all we can to ensure more people get the vaccine".
"Today we are declaring a public health emergency effective immediately". Twenty-one people have been hospitalized, with five ending up in the intensive care unit, but there have been no deaths.
"They have been spreading risky misinformation based on fake science", Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city' health commissioner, said in a statement.
Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the health commissioner there, said that since October she has been waging an uphill fight to persuade people vaccines are safe and necessary to protect the larger community.
NY has contended with measles outbreaks and the legal challenges that have arisen in efforts to contain them.
Non-vaccinated minors were banned from public places in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease, and hundreds of people have now been vaccinated, according to authorities.
"When people choose not to get their children vaccinated, they are putting their children and others - such as pregnant women, people on chemotherapy, and the elderly - at risk of contracting measles".
Doctors in affected communities said an anonymously produced anti-vaccine booklet targeting Orthodox Jews that contained false information had appeared in the mail over the last couple years, which had sown doubts and hesitancy among some parents. "Vaccinate." De Blasio said the outbreak "can be turned around quickly" if residents act quickly. While it is possible to become infected with measles post-vaccination, the Mayo Clinic says it is unlikely, provided the immunizations are up-to-date. Israel, for instance, also has a current measles outbreak.
The order also applies the same stipulations to the parents or guardian of any unvaccinated child older than six months of age in terms of having the child immunized.