Sat Apr 13, 2019, 12:18 AM

NYC Measles-Vaccine Order On Orthodox Jews Tests Citys Power

By Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — On the corner of Bedford and Division avenues in Brooklyn, in the heart of the New York borough’s Orthodox Jewish community, men in black hats and suits rushed in and out of cafes and women with headscarves pushed strollers or carts filled with groceries, not eager to speak with an outsider.

There was little indication that the Williamsburg neighborhood was the center of the nation’s biggest outbreak of measles, a once eradicated disease that has returned as some parents shun the vaccines that killed it off. On Tuesday, the 285 cases reported in the borough prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare a public health emergency, allowing him to impose $1,000 fines – or even jail time – on those who haven’t been inoculated and shining a light on the small, insular religious circles where the virus has spread.

“No one I know has measles, my dad’s a doctor and none of his patients have measles,” said Avi Rose, 17, who’s been vaccinated and assumes that almost everyone else he knows has been, too. Of the city’s order focusing on the tightly knit neighborhood, he said, “I think it’s not going to happen. Most people are vaccinated. They can’t enforce it.”

Such outbreaks have made an alarming, if limited, comeback since the turn of the century, when they had disappeared from the country. The return came amid concern among parents that vaccines are connected to health issues such as autism, despite a lack of scientific evidence and the consistent effort of medical experts to dislodge such beliefs.

There were as many as 667 cases of measles in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infections have been confirmed in 19 states this year. Nowhere has been more affected than Brooklyn and Rockland County, northwest of New York City. The two account for more than half the 465 U.S. cases reported this year as of April 4.


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