Across New York, there have been more than 300 confirmed measles cases, more than 150 in New York City and 146 in nearby Rockland County. In Rockland, most of the cases were found in those who were unvaccinated and under the age of 18.
In December, the alarming outbreak compelled county officials to take the drastic – and, they say, unprecedented – step of banning unvaccinated children from attending certain schools that had vaccination rates lower than 95 percent.
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“While no one enjoys the fact that these kids are out of school, these orders have worked,” said the county’s attorney, Thomas Humbach, in a statement to the local Journal News. “They have helped prevent the measles outbreak from spreading to this school population.
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The county’s consternation is part of a broad, national concern over the anti-vaccination movement, punctuated by severe measles outbreaks from the Pacific Northwest, to South Carolina and New York. The World Health Organization even dubbed “vaccine hesitancy” one of the top global threats of 2019.
In dramatic Capitol Hill testimony last week, 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger, now famous for vaccinating himself against his mother‘s wishes, warned about the dangers of anti-vax misinformation, which, studies have shown, spreads quickly through social media sites.
After Lindenberger’s appearance, Facebook announced its plan for combating anti-vax propaganda and false information on its platform.
Google and Amazon have taken similar steps.
States have also taken measures to ensure minors have access to vaccinations.
In South Carolina, Oregon and elsewhere, patients under 18 are allowed to ask for vaccinations without parental approval. In New York, two state lawmakers recently introduced a similar bill and gained support from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Often adolescents and young adults have a clearer grasp of what kinds of health care decisions make the most sense for them,” the New York chapters of the academy said in a statement to The Associated Press. “These young people have a right to protect themselves from diseases that can easily be prevented by immunizations.
At Green Meadow, the vaccination rate was just 33 percent when the December ban took effect, the Journal News reported, citing the county’s data. Since then, the county said it has risen to 56 percent, though a school‘s spokeswoman told The Times the share was actually 83 percent – either way, short of the mandated threshold.
“He is confused,” she said, “given his young age, about why he isn’t allowed on his campus.