Since September, New York has had more than 120 cases of measles, making it the worst year since the 90s. In an effort to stop the outbreaks from becoming an epidemic, babies are getting an accelerated vaccination schedule.
Even though the disease was already eliminated in the United States, the virus has recently been carried by those travelers to Israel. Most of the recent victims are members of different Orthodox Jewish communities around the state.
“It is a present and clear danger in our state,” said a pediatrician at the Clarkstown Pediatrics. Last week, the state reported 103 new measles cases since August. On average, more than 80% hadn’t been vaccinated.
Federal, state, as well as local health officials are trying to fight its outbreak, which has been triggered by a combination of lax enforcement, anti-vaccine propaganda, and an increasing trend to stay away from basic medical care. Thus, the vaccination rates in some counties have fallen to around 50%.
“We have tried to address this issue,” said Dr. Howard Zuckre – New York health commissioner. “This is the worst outbreak of measles in New York over the past decades.”
More than 12,000 people, mainly young babies, have been vaccinated during the past 3 months at both county and state clinics. Thousands of educational flyers have been also distributed to those hardest-hit communities, and some daycare centers, schools even closed due to low rates of vaccination. Also, unvaccinated students are required to stay at home to protect themselves.
There are three perquisites for a measles outbreak: a substantial number of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated people in the population; some of them must travel to a spreading area; and they must be infected and carry the virus back to their communities.
Health officials in New York have struggled to handle the underlying causes. Overall, the state has good rates of vaccination. However, it is also among those states which still allow parents to refuse vaccination for their kids due to some religious reasons.
Another reason is that private schools do not need to follow the state guidelines for student vaccination, and New York has many private schools.
“People often wait until the doctor or school makes them vaccinate,” said Lyon – the state spokesman. “In many cases, they don’t do it just because they don’t have to.” Enforcing vaccination requirements in private schools seems to be an effective measure to prevent the outbreak of measles in New York.