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Vaccination in Israel (archival image)

Rockland County officials desperate to limit the spread of the measles outbreak before it becomes an outright epidemic on Tuesday banned all exposed, unvaccinated people from public gathering places, including houses of worship, for the next three weeks, AP reported. The order coincides with religious celebrations of both Passover and Easter.

According to health officials, 329 cases of measles have been confirmed in New York city and 184 in Rockland since last October.

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On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that measles cases have risen 300% worldwide in the first three months of 2019, compared with the same time in 2018. The disease is highly contagious, but can be entirely prevented through the application of a two-dose vaccine.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also elevated their response to the measles, with a larger team monitoring this year’s outbreaks – after the measles was eliminated across the US in the year 2000.

On Tuesday, NYC health officials ordered the residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is densely Jewish Orthodox, to be vaccinated for measles or face fines as high as $1,000. The same officials noted that this may be the first time in more than 100 years that such stiff measures have been used.

Back in 1905, the Supreme Court upheld an order forcing smallpox vaccinations in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1922 the court upheld states’ right to impose school-vaccination programs, which has since established the schools as the avenue for dispensing vaccinations.

New York City’s Board of Health on Wednesday will vote on extending the mandatory vaccinations in four Brooklyn ZIP codes.

Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg told the AP they felt uncomfortable about the city’s forced vaccinations, and some continue to believe the vaccines are unsafe. And New York Civil Liberties Union Executive director Donna Lieberman said forced vaccinations were an extreme measure that “raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment.”

On Monday, a group of parents filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn state Supreme Court against the vaccination order, which they said was “arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law and in violation of petitioners’ rights under the United States Constitution and New York State law.” The judge did not issue an injunction against the city, and invited the parties to appear in his court on Thursday.

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