By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
Anti-Vaxxers. That’s what they call themselves. They are mostly parents who for one reason or another refuse to have their children vaccinated for any number of childhood diseases or annual flu shots. Sometimes it is based on religious grounds and sometimes it is from fear that a vaccination can cause harm or that a child’s immune system may be compromised by avoiding these diseases and the antibodies that result.
This issue has been brought into sharp focus by the outbreak of the highly contagious measles infection in New York and other cities which had virtually been eradicated two decades ago due to the vaccination protocol.
Obviously all parents want what is best for their children. But to deny the availability and effectiveness of modern medicine does not seem a wise choice. And when children are not vaccinated, or adults opt not to get flu shots, it puts the public health at much greater risk.
Influenza kills thousands of Americans each year. Measles, chicken pox and mumps can also cause permanent damage to a young child in severe cases, and even death.
By Sabina Mollot
Despite some pretty stringent rules about immunization in schools, measles has made its comeback. So far, cases have been reported in 10 states, including New York, where there have been over 200 reported cases, all in Orthodox Jewish enclaves upstate as well as in Brooklyn.
According to the New York City Health Department, there have been 67 cases of measles since last October, all in Brooklyn.
To keep the disease from spreading in the city, mandatory school exclusions are currently in effect for children attending yeshivas or yeshiva-based childcare centers in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. This means the students must remain home from school while the outbreak is ongoing, including children who have religious exemptions or valid medical exemptions.
Meanwhile, upstate, Rockland County has seen 130 cases, Orange County 10 cases and Monroe County seven, according to the State Department of Health. In response to the outbreak there, Rockland County has excluded approximately 6,000 unvaccinated children at schools that are either located in close proximity to cases or that have vaccination rates below 95 percent. State health officials have also met with local rabbinical leaders, parents and pediatricians on school exclusions and on getting children vaccinated.