Medicine

NYC mayor orders mandatory measles vaccinations amid 'health emergency'

NYC mayor orders mandatory measles vaccinations amid 'health emergency'

New York City has declared a public health emergency over a measles outbreak and ordered mandatory vaccinations for some people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot signed an order Tuesday that requires around 250,000 people who live and work in Williamsburg and aren't already immune to measles to be vaccinated within 48 hours.

The city's largest measles outbreak since 1991 has mainly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in the borough of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, with 285 cases confirmed since October, de Blasio said at a news conference. "I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their [mumps-measles-rubella] vaccines to protect their children, families and communities".

"This outbreak is being fuelled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighbourhoods", Dr Barbot said.

According to media reports, people who have not received the MMR vaccine, or don't have evidence of immunity, and then refuse to be vaccinated could be fined $1,000.

"The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective", the CDC said.

A total of 465 cases across 19 states have been confirmed this year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CBS reported that the "vast majority" of children in the largely ultra-Orthodox community of Williamsburg are vaccinated, but that the disease continues to spread due to how tight-knit the community is.

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"This is the epicentre of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately", he said.

The city can't legally physically force someone to get a vaccination, but officials said people who ignore the order could be fined $1,000 (£767).

"To challenge the risky misinformation that is being spread by a group of anti-vaxxers, it's crucial that everyone around them be vaccinated to shield them from infection", Barbot said. Only 39 cases involve adults.

News of the order got a mixed reaction in Williamsburg, with some residents - even those who support vaccination - saying they felt uncomfortable with the city pushing vaccines on people who don't want them.

"Look it's a serious public health concern, but it's also a serious First Amendment issue and it is going to be a constitutional, legal question", Cuomo said.

New York's mandate comes as health officials have scrambled to blunt the spread of measles. Five of 21 hospitalized cases have been admitted to the intensive care unit, she added.

As The Washington Post's Frances Stead Sellers reported, government pushes for inoculations and the barring of unvaccinated children from public spaces have prompted a backlash among anti-vaccination activists, whose misinformation campaigns have led to declines in immunizations against one of the world's most contagious diseases.

Non-vaccinated minors were banned from public places in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease, and hundreds of people have now been vaccinated, according to authorities. Newborns, pregnant individuals, and those with weakened immune systems can not get vaccinated, so it is important that everyone around them be vaccinated in order to protect them from contracting the virus and prevent severe complications in these susceptible populations. Infants ages 6 to 11 months should also be vaccinated prior to worldwide travel.