All unvaccinated adults and children who live or work in Williamsburg are ordered to receive an MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine within 48 hours, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot announced during a news conference Tuesday.
"There's no question that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving", said de Blasio.
In declaring a public health emergency, Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot said the number of cases diagnosed within certain zip codes of Williamsburg "continues to grow as new cases are still occurring" and that he deemed this to be an "existing threat to public health in the City of NY".
"If people ignore our order, we will issue fines". Twenty-one people have been hospitalized, with five ending up in the intensive care unit, but there have been no deaths.
In the city alone, 285 cases have been confirmed - 246 of which have been in children. 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. "We have to stop it now", he said.
New York's imposition of mandatory vaccination in four Brooklyn zip codes is by far the toughest action taken to date by state or local officials, as 19 states report 465 individual cases and officials elsewhere face pushback for barring unvaccinated children from public places. "We've seen a large increase in the number of people vaccinated in these neighborhoods, but as Passover approaches, we need to do all we can to ensure more people get the vaccine".
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness characterized by a rash of flat red spots.
He said he had seen misinformation circulate around the tightly knit community, but that most families trusted the Health Department.
Last year, there were 372 cases nationwide.
Miranda said there's no blueprint for how city officials could forcibly vaccinate people.
Barbot cited a group of "anti-vaxxers" who are seeking to undermine the public health emergency. "They have been spreading unsafe misinformation based on fake science", Barbot said.
The Health Department also warned against parents throwing "measles parties" as a way of infecting unvaccinated kids.
Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the health commissioner there, said that since October she has been waging an uphill fight to persuade people vaccines are safe and necessary to protect the larger community.
His order noted that the outbreak has persisted despite earlier orders "excluding unvaccinated children from attending preschools and daycare programs, because a high rate of people living within Williamsburg have not been vaccinated against measles" and this his department is "responsible for controlling communicable diseases".