Measles outbreak in NYC fuels debate over vaccinations

A disease that was considered to be eradicated in 2000 is now spreading in neighborhoods in New York City and across the country. Measles, a disease that most people are vaccinated against, has recently made a resurgence that has alarmed health care professionals across the United States.

The current measles outbreak has been traced to the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area with cases first being reported in early January 2019. Cases then spread north to Seattle, and then across the country.

The current outbreak in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn has prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare a public health emergency.

A measles outbreak in Brooklyn caused the NYC Department of Health to declare a state of emergency in four zip codes in Brooklyn, mandating vaccinations. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

In an emergency order issued April 9, de Blasio states, “that any person who lives, works or resides within the 11205, 11206, 11211 and/or 11249 zip codes and who has not received the MMR vaccine within forty eight (48) hours of this Order being signed by me shall be vaccinated against measles unless such person can demonstrate immunity to the disease or document to the satisfaction of the Department that he or she should be medically exempt from this requirement.”

The outbreak has already caused disruption in New York City public schools, as two schools have already been closed to help combat the spread of the illness.

In a recent news conference, Mayor de Blasio voiced grave concerns regarding the spread of the illness.

“We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback here in New York City,” he said. “The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that those who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine.”

This demand has again fueled intense debate over vaccinations. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have begun flagging posts by anti-vaccination users, commonly referred to as anti-vaxxers, for deletion and removal on the grounds of spreading false news.

Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, Monika Bickert, made clear in a March 2019 blog posting that Facebook would no longer tolerate anti-vaccine content on it’s platform – specifically in the form of advertisements. The platform also removed the ability to use “vaccine controversies” as an ad-targeting tool.

For many against vaccination, the underlying belief is that vaccinations will cause children to develop autism as they get older. This claim has been debunked by hundreds of studies and is vehemently opposed by medical professionals given the lack of scientific evidence supporting the claim.

Looking past the claim, some anti-vaxx parents will fall back on constitutional protections of religious freedom to avoid vaccinations. This has resulted in a deep evaluation of whether or not someone’s purported religious rights are worth more than the health and safety of those around them.

As the measles outbreak continues, it is important to check with doctors to see what vaccinations you have and what may need to updated. For measles specifically, one immunization as a child typically makes one lives.

Zachary Shaw can be reached at zachary.shaw@student.shu.edu. Find him on Twitter @Zach_Shaw_.

Author: Staff Writer

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