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New York Ramps Up The Battle Against A Measles Outbreak In Brooklyn

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a measles outbreak in New York City - the largest there in nearly 30 years. The city has declared a public health emergency, and the Health Department is taking a drastic step. They are mandating that everyone who is unimmunized and living in the affected areas has to get vaccinated unless they can prove a medical exemption. From member station WNYC, Gwynne Hogan reports.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Adults and children in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are now required to get the measles vaccine. They could be fined up to $1,000 if they don't. This announcement comes as the number of measles cases has more than doubled in the last six weeks. The outbreak has mostly impacted the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community here. And with Passover gatherings coming up, there's concern it could worsen. Deputy Mayor Dr. Herminia Palacio.

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HERMINIA PALACIO: When you make the decision not to vaccinate your child, please understand you're also making that decision for the people around your child.

HOGAN: City officials said they're hoping people will voluntarily comply, but if during investigations of measles cases, health inspectors find an unvaccinated person was exposed, that person could be fined if they refuse the vaccine. Community leader Rabbi David Niederman says he doesn't think it will get to that point.

DAVID NIEDERMAN: I am convinced people will learn how the Department of Health is committed, and it will never get to fines because everybody is going to be vaccinated.

HOGAN: But Dr. Jay Begun, a pediatrician in the neighborhood who's treated dozens of measles cases, says no community will get 100 percent compliance.

JAY BEGUN: But I'm hoping that we're able to raise the levels of immunization to achieve the herd immunity that's needed to prevent further outbreaks.

HOGAN: Begun says most of his patients don't ardently oppose vaccines; rather, they're hesitant because of misinformation about the safety of vaccines. He recalled one recent conversation with a parent who said they weren't ready for their toddler to be vaccinated.

BEGUN: So I said, well, when do you think you'll be ready? There's a huge outbreak of measles in your community. If not now, when?

HOGAN: He says he hopes the city's public health emergency might sway parents like that.

For NPR News, I'm Gwynne Hogan in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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