New York mandates vaccine to contain Brooklyn measles outbreak

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn on Tuesday, ordering all residents to be vaccinated to contain a measles outbreak concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

The order concerns all people living or working in four zip codes of Williamsburg, northwest Brooklyn, where some residents oppose vaccines on religious grounds — although neither Jewish texts, nor local Jewish authorities advise against vaccination.

“It was time to take a more muscular approach,” De Blasio told a news conference as the emergency measures were announced. 

“This can be turned around quickly,” he said. “We can stop this.”

Under the new rules, anyone who has not received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or does not have evidence of immunity risks a fine of US$1,000, said a statement from the mayor’s office.

The city also warned that yeshiva religious schools and day care programs serving the local Orthodox Jewish community would face penalties and possible closure if they continue to take in unvaccinated students.

Like most American states — all but three, including California — New York requires a series of vaccinations for school-age children but has until now granted exemptions on both medical and religious grounds.