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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:00 am

New York orders measles measure

Says get vaccinated or face fines

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Health officials Tuesday ordered nearly everyone in a heavily Orthodox Jewish New York City neighborhood to be vaccinated for measles or face fines, reviving a public-health strategy that experts say hasn't been used in the U.S. in recent memory.

The emergency order came as the city, a suburban New York county and some other parts of the nation grapple with a spurt in a disease the U.S. declared eradicated almost two decades ago.

“This is an unusual action,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged, “and it's because of the sheer extent of the crisis.”

Meanwhile, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated its response to measles, establishing a larger team to focus on outbreaks that have sickened 465 people nationwide this year – the second-greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated domestically in 2000.

The nation's biggest city is in the midst of its biggest measles outbreak since 1991, with 285 cases diagnosed since last fall – compared to two in all of 2017, officials said. They blamed the spike partly on anti-vaccine campaigns spreading misinformation that immunizations are dangerous.

News of the order got a mixed reaction among Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighborhood affected by the order. Some residents – even those who support vaccination – said they felt uncomfortable about the city pushing inoculations on people who don't want them.

Others remain convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines are unsafe.

“It's true that a lot of people have measles, and measles are not a very good thing,” said resident Aron Braver, but he thinks the vaccine is “also not a very good thing.”

“And it's everybody's option to do what he wants. What he decides,” Braver added.

The New York Civil Liberties Union also questioned the city's move.

Executive director Donna Lieberman called it “an extreme measure” that “raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment.”

De Blasio, a Democrat, said officials were confident the order would withstand legal scrutiny.