The anti-vaccination movement is having a devastating impact on New Yorkers, with 359 confirmed cases of measles since Friday, according to the New York Daily News. To deal with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, New York State senators from the Democratic side of the aisle are launching a campaign they hope will change those parents’ minds.
The initiative includes informational posters and flyers senators will distribute in their districts and post on social media with instructions for people to visit the state Health Department website.
“Vaccines save lives,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “That simple fact needs to be shared and accepted by all New Yorkers, and that is what this information campaign is all about.”
More than 19,000 doses of measles vaccination have been given out since the beginning of the outbreak. Additionally, the Department of Health has been holding regular public health emergency preparedness calls to ensure the response to emergencies is adequate and is working with county health officials and local providers to ensure they have the resources needed to deal with the outbreaks.
While the anti-vaccination movement is a global one, the issue has hit New York City and the rest of the state at an alarming rate. Rockland County has 186 confirmed cases, and another 10 were confirmed in Westchester County last week. Most of the outbreaks have taken place in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.
(Here is a cool explainer from Vox explaining how the outbreak is impacting these communities.)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared the measles outbreak a public health emergency and requires residents who decline vaccinations to face possible $1,000 fines. Officials in Rockland tried to ban people exposed to measles from visiting public places after a judge stopped Rockland County executive Ed Day’s initial state of emergency earlier in the month. A state appellate panel declined to reinstate Day’s emergency last week.
Last week, a judge dismissed five parents’ lawsuit against the city after they refused to vaccinate their kids.
“A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire,” Hon. Lawrence Knipel of Kings County Supreme Court wrote in his ruling. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion. It is worthwhile to note that in enacting.”
Robert Krakow, the parents’ attorney, was surprised by the Senate Democrats vaccination campaign.
“I know that other politicians promote legislation that promotes vaccines, but I’ve never seen an advertising campaign favoring vaccines (from them), I’ve only seen that from public health departments,” he said. “This is very unusual.”
“Generally, I just don’t think it’s the role of a legislator,” he added.
Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000.