health mind and body

City tightens rules in vax-lax Brooklyn


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency on Tuesday over the measles outbreak in Brooklyn’s haredi community.

De Blasio ordered unvaccinated people living in four ZIP codes in the Williamsburg neighborhood to get the vaccine or face fines of up to $1,000.

The order comes a day after the city’s Department of Health threatened to fine or even close yeshivas in Williamsburg if students who are not vaccinated against measles are allowed to attend classes.

There have been 285 reported cases of measles in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community since October, including 246 children, the health department said.

The areas covered by the order are where most of the city’s measles cases have originated. They are largely populated by haredi Jews.

“The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested … the faster everyone heeds the order, the faster we can lift it,” deBlasio said.

Numerous Orthodox rabbis and organizations have said that vaccinations may be halachically mandated.

“There are no legitimate religious grounds to oppose vaccination,” Rabbi Hershel Billet said in an email to his congregants at the Young Israel of Woodmere last fall. “There are very clear religious grounds to make vaccination of children obligatory! Herd immunity only works if everyone is vaccinated.”

In November, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, an assistant rabbi at YIW who is also chief of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital., wrote in the Jewish Press that “there is absolutely no one who disagrees with the psak that a parent is required to remove one’s child to safety when a danger is present. Indeed, this is part of the basis for the halachic ruling of Harav Elyashiv zt”l who viewed normal childhood vaccinations as being an obligatory part of parental obligations.”

Some 465 measles cases have been reported in 19 states this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from 387 the week before.