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PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY: DeBlasio Orders Mandatory Vaccinations in Williamsburg; Anti-Vaxxers Face $1000 Fine

New York City declared a public health emergency Tuesday over a measles outbreak centered in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and ordered mandatory vaccinations in certain zip codes.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the unusual order amid what he said was a measles crisis in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, where more than 250 people have gotten measles since September. Officials blamed the outbreak on “anti-vaxxers” spreading false information.

The order applies to anyone living, working or going to school in four ZIP codes in the neighborhood and requires all unvaccinated people at risk of exposure to the virus to get the vaccine, including children over 6 months old.

[WATCH THIS: Williamsburg Anti-Vaxxer Mothers Give Media Shocking Interview]

The city can’t physically force someone to get a vaccination, but officials said people who ignore the order could be fined $1,000. The city said it would help everyone covered by the order get the vaccine if they can’t get it quickly through their regular medical provider.

“If people will simply cooperate quickly, nobody will have to pay a fine,” de Blasio said.

“There’s no question that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving,” said de Blasio. “I urge everyone, especially those in affected areas, to get their MMR vaccines to protect their children, families and communities.”

The declaration comes just as the city’s department of health threatened to close yeshivas if non-vaccinated students are allowed to attend classes during the current measles outbreak.

In December, the health department ordered yeshivas and childcare centers serving the Orthodox Jewish community in the affected zip codes in Brooklyn to exclude all non-vaccinated students from attending school or daycare until the outbreak was declared over.

Then in January, one yeshiva in Williamsburg fell out of compliance with the exclusion mandate, allowing non-vaccinated children back into school or daycare.

Officials say this single yeshiva is connected to more than 40 cases.

Officials say 285 measles cases have been confirmed in New York City since the beginning of the outbreak, the largest in the city since 1991. New York City accounted for about two-thirds of all U.S. measles cases reported last week.

Ordering people to be vaccinated without their consent is “an extreme measure which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a written statement.

The majority of religious leaders in Brooklyn’s large Orthodox communities support vaccination efforts, said the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, but rates have remained low in some areas because of resistance from some groups that believe the inoculations are dangerous.

“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods. They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science,” Barbot said. “We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk. We’ve seen a large increase in the number of people vaccinated in these neighborhoods.”

Officials also noted that Passover is approaching, meaning increased travel among people who could carry measles to or from New York. Israel, for instance, also has a current measles outbreak.

The commissioner is empowered by law to issue such orders in cases when they might be necessary to protect against a serious public health threat.

News of the order got a mixed reaction in Williamsburg, with some residents — even those who support vaccination — saying they felt uncomfortable with the city pushing vaccines on people who don’t want them. Others remain convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines are unsafe.

“It’s true that a lot of people have measles and measles are not a very good thing, but I think the vaccine also not a very good thing,” said Aron Braver, a neighborhood resident. “And it’s everybody’s option to do what he wants. What he decides.”

Rabbi David Oberlander, director of the Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov School, where there were 20 measles cases, said “maybe 3%” of the students were unvaccinated.

“However, we worked very hard, as the health department told us, and those children were excluded,” he said.

Another Jewish religious community, north of the city but with close ties to Brooklyn, has also seen a surge, with at least 166 cases since October. Last week, a state judge blocked an attempt by Rockland County officials to halt the spread of measles by banning unvaccinated children from public places.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine. It says the vaccine is 97% effective.

“This is a public health crisis and can be stopped pretty easily,” said New York City Councilman Stephen Levin.

Officials say many in Williamsburg are listening to false information about the vaccine.

“We need to make sure that there’s good information that’s out there, that’s culturally sensitive, that is getting to the right people, to make sure that it’s real scientific information so people know this is not a risk,” said Levin. “Vaccinating your children is in the best interests of them and the entire community.”

(AP / YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

22 Responses

  1. If he is targetting people based on race, religion or ethnicty he is probably in big trouble under the Federal civil rights law since he is clearly depriving people of rights under color of state law. Even if he proves that only Hasidic Jews don’t get measles vaccinations (in which case, it appears that are vastly more hasidim than we realize, spread out through the country), he’ll probably lose. In effect he would be saying its okay to skip measles vaccinations if your are Black, or Italian, or Irish, or if you live in Greenpoint or Brooklyn Heights, or if you are Catholic or Baptist or a Reform Jew.

    Unless YWN messed up his coverage, horribly, De Blasio is horrendously shooting himself in his political foot.

  2. Fantastic! This is a long-overdue move. It’s time to close down this measles epidemic caused by so-called “frum” anti-vaxxers. This terrible chillul hashem has got to stop! How people who consider themselves religious can ignore the 99.9% of rabbonim – and doctors – who say you must vaccinate is beyond me. If they can’t see reason and follow da’as Torah, then they need to be forced. These rodfim are endangering our entire community. While I certainly don’t agree with the mayor about everything, he got this one right! Thank you, Mr. Mayor!

  3. Akuperma: Among the ethnic groups in the USA, it appears that only the Orthodox (or maybe Ultra-Orthodox?) refuse vaccinations in large numbers, and that’s where the outbreaks are.
    There are probably people of all ethnicities that refuse vaccines, but not in such large numbers. I don’t think that Deblasio is targetting Jews at all. He’s just focusing on the source of the problems. You haven’t heard of this problem in public schools, have you?

  4. Akuperma: you’re probably wrong here as he can’t issue declarations to people out of NYC, and not just Chasidic Jews live in those zip codes. A lot less than 50% are Chasidic.

  5. Hey d’blasio. Being that u voted for pro 9th month abortion , would u fine a parent who had a botched abortion and refused to vaccinate that baby?

  6. According to the goyim’s press, the problem with measles is national and not tied to any ethnic or religious group. For example, if you want to crack down on drug abuse (which is a national problem), and focus only one one ethnic or religious group, it will be hard (not impossible) to meet the strict scrutiny standard for discrimination legislation focused on a clearly protected class. The problem for our perspective is that some frum Jews, who generally stay away for goyish haskafas, bought “whole line and sinker” the ideas of those advocating oppositions to vaccines (which includes prominent celebrities and people whom we normally have nothing to do with).

  7. @Vaccinator, In the USA a democratic land everyone has the right to do as he wishes as long it’s not against the law. So there is a right for everyone frum or not, Chasidic or not to have his own opinion. and it is not a matter of chilul Hashem because of that the anti-ultra-orthodox jews media is looking to make a fuss of it. Imagine we would be mechiyev by our rabonim to vaccinate, the media headlines would be that ultra-orthodox Jews are not allowed to have their own opinion -rabbis are forcing to get vaccinated…
    Majority of frum Chasidic ultra-orthodox Jews are vaccinated.
    Btw I’m on the vaccinated side.

  8. What a disaster. If this things spreads outside the Chassidic community in the city and into the general population this can go down as one of the greatest chillul hashems ever!! What makes it worse is why is Agudah and Satmar NOT at this press conference? We need to show that the mass majority of the klal is not these loony mesghuah crackpots. We should have been right front in center of this press conference.

    This make me think that the Gedolim of Klal Yisroel unfortunately agree with the anti-vaxxers. This is worse in my opinion. I can understand a bunch of naive folks falling for this garbage, but I cannot understand how supposedly smart people can agree with this stuff.

  9. Please read your words again. There have only been 3 measles related deaths in the past 2 decades. That’s approx 1 death in 7 years. I myself know several ppl who died in the past 7 years very shortly after getting their vaccines. Not to mention the many who were severely injured- like those who got cancer and their symptoms started just days or a few short weeks after vaccination.
    As a btw, I’m not the type who knows loads of ppl. So just do the yourself math which one carries more risks.

  10. motchah11: aybe you are just anti ultra chasidich….
    since yes, everyone has a mind of their own and they can do what they want,
    till it comes to they endanger other people.

  11. btw. i am satmar and PRO vaccines…
    you cant now call all williamsburg people that they are anti vaccines
    since i know awhole lot of people who are pro vaccines

  12. Government intrusion into private taxpaying citizens live’s, regardless of the issue and regardless of which side you’re on, is a very dangerous precedent. Do you really want a Jerrold Nadler or a Bernie Sanders dictating how we must live our live’s?! Do you want Kristen Gillibrand and Sheila Jackson Lee controlling our freedoms?! I thought it was a government of the people, by the people, for the people? When did WE become slaves to our government?

  13. Faigy from Brooklyn

    While death is horrendous, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also terrible. While there have not been deaths associated with the measles virus in the US with the current outbreak, there have been hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
    BH due to the supportive care these patients were able to recover and at least for the short term are not effected.

    This does not mean that this is a benign disease, it is a preventable horrible disease.

    With regards to your anecdotal observations. If this were true, there would have been more to just you typing up a message to substantiate this claim. Hospitals, EMS services, investigations, social media and community outcry. Yet none of this occurred, because the claim you made does not exist.

    So instead of asking others to do the math, how about you do it.

  14. @Faigy from brooklyn, I know lots of people and don’t know anyone who was harmed in any way by vaccines. Because i know more people than you it must be that i am right and vaccines are safe 🙄
    I feel bad for anyone who experienced any sort of illness but to blame it on vaccines without any real data is dishonest and flat out wrong.

  15. People are still under the impression that there are “sides” and that this is a machlokes or debate. There are no more sides to this situation than there would be sides to a discussion on same-gendered marriage in halacha. Vaccines save lives. Period. When a large group of people refuse to vaccinate, they put the lives of everyone around them in jeopardy and are being somech on a nes. Stating “I personally vaccinate but bla bla bla…” is just giving credence to those who are, out of ignorance, creating a situation where people are at risk.

    @Faigy from Brooklyn

    Three measles related deaths out of only about two hundred cases. That means one out of every hundred people who get measles may die! That’s insane! By comparison, someone with the flu has something like a chance in 10,000 of death. Injury from vaccines is like one out of every million. And that’s not even going into permanent injury and miscarriages which are very real risks from measles. You may know people who died after getting immunized, but you probably also know people who died after eating an apple. That’s why we have statistics and the scientific process which, by the way, show no correlation between vaccines and deaths.

  16. Jbf: wrt your comment that “In the USA a democratic land everyone has the right to do as he wishes as long it’s not against the law.” You are correct, except that “the law” includes regulations, health department requirements, and school admission requirements. These are completely in support of vaccination requirements. And as for “the law,” in case other people are misguided like you, that’s why deBlasio is trying to change “the law” to mandate vaccination and fine those who don’t comply. Yasher koach to him! And yes it’s a terrible chillul hashem – the biggest chillul hashem in this country in modern times. These rodfim unfortunately need to be forced to take action since their intransigence is having severe repercussions!

  17. Compulsory vaccination is perfectly constitutional. The Supreme Court said so more than a century ago, and nobody since then has questioned it.

  18. Vaccinator: For some reason it is optional! They might change it but for now, – except Williamsburg- it is optional and not forced by law!
    Chilul Hashem is when Jews are helping the media and antisemitic people to spread their rhetoric against (ultra-orthodox) Jews.
    Don’t think that if when we all will be vaccinated they will be happy with us, they will always find something against us that will be -according to you- a chilul Hashem…
    In my opinion, the point is not to fight the anti-vaxxers as they will not change anyway, instead, we should support vaccination and show the media that the majority of us are vaccinated. in this way, it will make a kiddush Hashem.

  19. I am by no means at all a supporter of the anti-vaxx movement. I think they are either wildly misinformed or just plain statistically illiterate. (and yes I have watched what was supposed to be the best and clearest anti-vaxx videos – it is completely ridiculous that people actually fall for this). That being said, this is an extremely dangerous precedent and disagree 100% with this step. Once government steps in and starts controlling things in your private life it just leads to more and more. This is an extremely dangerous slope and we should fight as hard as we can against this.
    Schools can decide on their own (and I think they should) that they don’t want non-vaccinated kids in the school. Parents can decide not to invite those kids over. But government – stay out.

  20. I cant reply to answer you all because the mods deleted my post immediately. Unfortunately we live in a country where Freedom of press is no longer a given. Here goes my answer as to why we don’t here of all the vaccine related deaths.
    And community outcry there is plenty, all the antivaxxers represent those injured.

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