Starting Friday, Dec. 7, the New York City Department of Health is requiring unvaccinated students to stay home from some schools due to the recent measles outbreak, according to NBC New York. The regulation affects certain Jewish schools in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, areas that have been hit particularly hard by the outbreak.
As of Thursday, 39 cases of measles were reported among the Orthodox Jewish communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, according to NBC New York. Only three adults have contracted measles, while the rest of the cases concerns young children, according to NBC New York. The illness was reportedly spread by an unvaccinated child who recently returned home from a trip to Israel, according to Fox News.
Given the rapid increase in cases, health officials in New York are enforcing students to get vaccinated with the required number of doses of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine before they can return to school, otherwise they have to wait until the outbreak is declared over, according to ABC7 Eyewitness News. This announcement is a big deal because it applies to children with an approved religious or medical exemption to measles immunization.
"Every student attending a yeshiva ... who is not vaccinated with the required number of doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine will not be permitted to attend school, regardless of whether a case of measles has occurred in the school," a letter sent home to principals and parents on Thursday reads, according to ABC7 Eyewitness News.
The zip codes included in the restriction are, according to The Jewish Press:
It's important to note that the regulation "includes students who attend a child care program serving the orthodox community, yeshivas with a child care program, or a yeshiva with any grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade," according to The Jewish Press.
Additionally, the note mentioned the vaccination requirements for the 2018-2019 school year. The letter states, according to The Jewish Press:
As a reminder, for the 2018-2019 school year, for children attending daycare and prekindergarten, one dose of MMR is required; for children attending kindergarten through 12th grade, two doses are required. Results of blood work showing immunity to measles (measles IgG positive) is also acceptable. Documentation of disease history from a physician, without laboratory confirmation, is not acceptable.
School directors and principals are responsible for enforcing these regulations, and the New York City Department of Health will send auditors to the yeshiva's affected by the measles outbreak. Recent audits show that only "2 percent of children in the Orthodox communities are unvaccinated for religious or medical reasons," according to NBC New York.
Brooklyn isn't the only area in the United States to experience a measles outbreak in 2018. As of Nov. 3, 2018, "220 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia," while "a total of 15 outbreaks (defined as 3 or more linked cases) have been reported so far in 2018," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To prevent future measles outbreaks, it's imperative to follow a strict vaccination schedule.
"Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles. And when enough people get vaccinated against measles, the entire community is less likely to get it," The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) website states. "So when you and your family get vaccinated, you help keep yourselves and your community healthy."
Make sure your child gets their first dose of MMR between 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose between four through six years of age, according to the HHS' website. If you have any concerns/questions about the vaccine, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
Hopefully, the New York City Department of Health's new regulation will end the measles outbreak in Brooklyn. In the meantime, parents should educate themselves about the importance of vaccinations because modern medicine is the only way to prevent similar situations from happening.