On Tuesday, a county in the north of the New York announced an emergency state and banned unvaccinated kids against measles from some public spaces. This was one of the most aggressive actions action by health officials in the city since the measles outbreak in October 2018.
“Effective at the midnight of Wednesday, anyone under 18 years old and unvaccinated against measles will be banned from these public places till they get MMR vaccination,” Ed Day, Executive of Rockland County, said at a conference. These public spaces include public transit, worship places, stores, and schools.
Local police won’t ask for vaccination documentation, but they can enforce it when parents are found to allow their unvaccinated children to access these areas.
“If you are in violation, the case would be spoken to the office of the district attorney. Parents would be held accountable. We want to advise parents to know and do the right things,” said Day.
“We want every parent to know that this is basically against the laws. It is a governmental action aimed to back the Department of Health. Parents can be charged a $400 fine or jailed for 6 months,” Day added.
Health officials in Rockland County noted that those who violate the new law won’t be compelled to be vaccinated, but their parents will be responsible for that.
Rockland County is located just 35 miles north of Manhattan. It is among the hardest hit areas in the state by measles because of low rates of vaccination in the ultra-Orthodox communities. As of last week, 153 measles cases have been reported, with more than 80% hadn’t get any dose of the vaccine and 45.8% of those were from 4 to 18.
“They are trying to recreate the old model of quarantine,” Doctor William Schaffner, an infectious illness expert at the Vanderbilt University said. “It is an action to help with stopping the outbreak, it isn’t a punishment. Instead, this measure is designed to protect vulnerable people and interrupt transmission.”
Public health officials approved the action of Rockland County to this growing crisis.
“Generally, voluntary requests could result in higher rates of response. Nevertheless, this is an emergency which can get worse,” said Cheryl Healton, professor and dean at the Global Health College at the University of New York.
“I believe that every US citizen will regret the day when they refuse vaccines which people have to wait for months to receive in other countries,” said Healton.