New York Declares Measles Public Health Emergency

Unvaccinated citizens of select ZIP codes will now be required to receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine under threat of a $1,000 fine.

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency over the measles outbreak affecting the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg. He revealed that unvaccinated citizens of the 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249 zip codes will be required to receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine under threat of a fine.

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Members of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be checking the vaccination records of people who may have come into contact with the infected. Those who do not comply and have no previous immunity will be given a violation and could be fined $1,000.

"Every hour, every day matters here. If people would just go and get vaccinated, there's no cause for a fine," de Blasio said at a news conference. 

"It's not our goal to issue violations. We want to simply solve the problem."

Protecting everyone

"Vaccines don’t just protect your child — they protect everyone else around them including infants and people living with long-term illness. Protect your neighbors by making sure your family is vaccinated immediately," de Blasio further wrote in a tweet.

New York City has witnessed a rise in measles outbreaks with 285 cases since the fall. Even worse, 21 of those cases led to hospitalizations, with five leading to the intensive care unit.

To curb the outbreak, city officials tried an earlier order in December that saw unvaccinated students banned from attending schools in certain sections of Brooklyn. This move proved ineffective as the outbreak continue to spread.

Now, de Blasio said that the city would go so far as to fine or even temporarily shut down yeshivas that did not comply with the new orders.

Making it easier to get vaccinated

New York's health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said at the news conference that the point of the new measures are not to fine people but to make it easier for them to get vaccinated. 

However, for those that still refuse vaccination, Barbot said they would be handled on a “case-by-case basis, and we’ll have to confer with our legal counsel.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that across the US, there have been 465 measles cases since the start of 2019. Of the 78 new cases reported last week, 60 were in New York City.

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