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OpinionColumnistsRachel Figueroa-Levin

Measles outbreak enough to get you mad

I'm angry over the measles outbreak in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. You see, measles was practically eradicated in 2000, 37 years after the vaccine was introduced. But there are 20 measles cases in NYC.

The highly infectious disease has been detected from San Francisco to Boston -- and now Inwood. In fact, the number of nationally reported cases increased threefold last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

There are several factors behind outbreaks, including international travelers who have not received the shots, unvaccinated Americans traveling abroad, and a domestic backlash in recent years against vaccination.

Nine of the NYC cases include children either too young to receive the shot or whose parents chose not to vaccinate them. Some parents oppose the shots for religious reasons (quick note because I've seen them blamed on social media: Jehovah's Witnesses do not oppose vaccines); others opt against vaccinations because they fear a link between the shots and autism. But experts have said repeatedly there's no relationship between vaccinations and autism.

Unfortunately, some of the parents say their unvaccinated kid is doing just fine. They fail to understand this is not only about them. If their little quinoa- and kale-fed spawn gets a (preventable) disease, he or she risks infecting other kids who may be too young, or perhaps too sick, to be vaccinated.

My 3-year-old daughter got her first measles shot when she was 1, because I'm a responsible parent. She will likely get her 4-year-old booster shot earlier than scheduled because some irresponsible parents won't vaccinate their kids. I know parents who are unable to get children vaccinated -- because they are too young or because they are ill -- who fear their kids may contract measles.

We live in New York City. We are one international flight away from any number of diseases. Luckily we also live in a time and place where vaccines are available. There shouldn't be a measles outbreak in NYC -- or anywhere in the United States.

If you have an unvaccinated child, get the shots. The vaccines protect not only your child, but also another who may be too young or ill to be vaccinated.

Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican and @ElBloombito.


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