NYC Bans Unvaccinated Children From Public Spaces To Fight Measles

Health officials in Rockland County, New York have declared a state of emergency amid an ongoing measles outbreak.

The county is prohibiting unvaccinated children under the age of 18 from going out in public spaces for 30 days, CBS New York reports.

There have been 153 confirmed cases of measles in Rockland County, which sits about 40 miles (64 kilometres) north of New York City. The majority of cases have been in children, most of whom have not been vaccinated.

"We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk," County Executive Ed Day said in a press conference on Tuesday.

"This is a public health crisis and it's time we sound the alarm."

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Boy with symptoms hand, foot and mouth disease

The ban will be effective for 30 days from midnight on Tuesday, local time.

Public places affected by the order include shopping centers, businesses, restaurants, schools, and places of worship. Anyone under 18 who hasn't been vaccinated will be banned from such places for 30 days or until the individual gets vaccinated. People who are medically unable to get vaccinated are exempt.

Day noted that this is the first effort of its kind nationally. "The circumstances we're facing here clearly calls for that," he said.

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He emphasised that law enforcement will not be going around asking everyone for their vaccination records. However, parents of unvaccinated children "will be held accountable" if they are found to be in violation and could face police action.

Measles (Image Ten News First).
Measles outbreak in Rockland County

In September last year, an international traveller arrived in Rockland County with a suspected case of the measles. Six additional cases of measles from international travellers to the area followed, exposing more people to the virus.

The outbreak was centered in an Orthodox Jewish community where many residents had not been vaccinated. Day noted that many Orthodox rabbis have been working with health officials to encourage vaccination in their community, so it's not a matter of religious objection.

The cases are currently clustered in eastern Ramapo, though officials warn exposure may occur anywhere in the county. The Health Department is working to limit exposures and offering a free vaccine to boost the county's immunisation rate.

Earlier this month, a federal judge barred 50 unvaccinated students from attending Rockland's Green Meadow Waldorf School for at least three weeks.

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The importance of the measles vaccine

One dose of the MMR vaccine -- which protects against measles, mumps and rubella -- is 93 percent effective, and two doses are about 97 percent effective.

However, once a person is infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, meaning vaccination is literally a life-saving tool.

Vaccines are required for school children, but almost all US states allow exemptions for families who say it's against their religious beliefs, and 17 states allow a parent to opt out for philosophical or personal reasons.