In Brief

MMR: county bans unvaccinated children from public places

Rockland County, NY, is suffering the longest measles outbreak since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000

Officials in a county in New York state have taken the unprecedented step of banning unvaccinated children from entering public places, amid a spike in measles cases.

Ed Day, an executive from Rockland County, northwest of New York City, announced the order on Tuesday as an effort to contain an outbreak of measles that began in October 2018. CNN reports that 153 new cases have been confirmed in the county since that time.

Day said that starting at midnight on Wednesday, the county would be under a state of emergency as a result of the outbreak, and anyone under 18 who has not yet been vaccinated will be barred from public places until they receive the MMR vaccine, or until the state of emergency expires in 30 days.

Violations will be charged as misdemeanours punishable by up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.

ABC News says that public places are being defined by county officials as “any place where people get together for civic or social reasons”, such as shopping centres, schools and restaurants. Outdoor areas, such as playgrounds, are not included.

“It’s an attention grab, there’s no question about it,” Day said at a news conference. “We’re not punishing the people who are doing the right thing already and following the rules. We just want to encourage everyone to do the right thing so we can stop this outbreak.”

He added that there will “not be law enforcement or deputy sheriffs asking for vaccination records”, insisting that instead “parents will be held accountable if they’re found to be in violation of this emergency declaration”.

CNN adds that the current spike in measles in the county has been “the longest outbreak in the United States since before measles was declared eliminated in 2000”.

Many of the measles cases in New York state “have been concentrated among children of Orthodox Jewish families, many of whom attend religious schools where the vaccination rates are below 95%”, ABC News says, which is the “threshold considered necessary to maintain immunity among the community, known as herd immunity”.

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