The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday to extend an order for mandatory measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations and fines for noncompliance in certain ZIP Codes in Brooklyn, where a measles outbreak began last fall in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
The city health commissioner’s order, initially issued on April 9 when the city declared a public-health emergency for the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, mandates that anyone who lives or works in the 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249 ZIP Codes be vaccinated against or demonstrate immunity to measles. The order applies to children aged 6 months and older, and there are fines for noncompliance.
The original order applied until the board meeting; the continuing order is effective immediately and will last until the outbreak is declared over by the health department commissioner, Oxiris Barbot.
Photos: Williamsburg Reacts to Mandatory Vaccinations
Residents weigh in on the mandatory measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations and fines for noncompliance in certain areas of Brooklyn
During a presentation before the Board of Health, the health department’s deputy commissioner for the division of disease control, Demetre Daskalakis, said the majority of the 329 confirmed cases of measles in the city, some 66%, are in children younger than 4 years old.
Data from the city presented during the meeting showed the number of reported measles cases dipped to its lowest point in late December and early January, but then increased through January, February and March in Williamsburg. Dr. Daskalakis said the “kindling” for that growth was an incident where one unvaccinated child with measles came to school, resulting in 41 other measles transmissions.
“It’s like a fractal. Those 40 people contact another number of people and they transmit measles,” he said.
Board of Health member Lynne Richardson expressed concern that the current outbreak could grow in emergency rooms throughout the city, where now the level of screening needed for patients who have a fever—a common symptom for measles—has created a great deal of new work.
“There was a lot of attention and drama around Ebola,” said Dr. Richardson, referring to a single case of the disease in 2014 in New York City. “But the level of preparation and the commitment of health-care resources that it is taking for us to deal safely with this measles outbreak already rivals the kind of preparation we had for Ebola, with measles actually being more contagious.”
Five parents filed a lawsuit Monday in New York against the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the city’s health commissioner, seeking a temporary restraining order against the mandatory vaccine order. Attorneys said in their petition for the parents that there is “insufficient evidence of a measles epidemic.” A judge didn’t grant the temporary restraining order, the city said, and the next hearing in the case is on April 18.
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