OpinionEditorial Vaccine is critical to stop measles outbreak in NYC Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio, left, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, right, announce that New York City has ordered mandatory vaccinations for residents of Williamsburg amid an outbreak that has largely affected the Orthodox Jewish community, Brooklyn on April 9, 2019. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert By The Editorial Board April 9, 2019 7:04 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency for Williamsburg’s residents on Tuesday to stem a measles outbreak that includes 285 cases citywide. For comparison, in 2017, NYC had only two cases of the measles all year. Alarmingly, the city’s outbreak brings the statewide total to more than 400. While most of the city’s cases are in Brooklyn, two have been diagnosed in Queens. In a clear indication of just how easily measles can spread, a single yeshiva in Williamsburg is responsible for more than 40 cases, according to city officials. So now, unvaccinated adults and children in specific ZIP codes are mandated to get the measles vaccine. If they don’t, they could be fined $1,000. New York is one of 19 states dealing with measles outbreaks. Just one case can ignite an outbreak But this scare isn’t only about ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn or in Rockland County, where cases are concentrated. All it takes is one case for measles to spread rapidly through communities with low vaccination rates. Unvaccinated kids, even if they’re in private schools, can expose others anywhere they go, from Little League to the supermarket. There is no debate. This is a public health crisis, the welfare of children and vulnerable adults is at stake and there’s a way to stop it: New Yorkers must be immunized. To achieve what’s known as “herd immunity,” and best protect the entire population, the state Health Department says its goal is to reach a 96 percent vaccination rate in a given school or community. While the state’s by-school vaccination rate statistics do not include NYC public or private schools, city officials confirmed Tuesday that in Williamsburg alone, roughly 1,800 children are unvaccinated. Besides the city’s legal remedies, there must be a continued effort by the schools, area health clinics, and the state and city health departments to inform parents, encourage immunization, and provide more vaccination opportunities in and near schools. City officials have made extensive efforts to reach out to the specific communities affected and that, too, must continue. Stop religious exemptions Still, New York State makes it too easy to avoid immunizing young children. The state’s so-called religious exemption is often used not for religious reasons at all, but because parents believe misinformation or don’t trust government officials. In part, these are reasons for the state’s outbreak. Anonymous groups are circulating pamphlets in Orthodox Jewish communities that scare parents, even taking Jewish law out of context to try to back their false claims. So, city officials have to keep up efforts to use facts to combat wrong information and scare tactics. Beyond that, state lawmakers must pass legislation that would end all exemptions except for medical ones. To protect vulnerable children, classmates must get their shots. And unvaccinated adults must be immunized, too. Don’t assume your school or community is immune. There is only one real course of action: Vaccinate. By The Editorial Board Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.