The city of New York’s health commissioner on Monday ordered Orthodox Jewish schools in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn to stop admitting students who have not received a measles vaccination, and threatened a fine or closure if they refuse.
“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods,” said Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot. “They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science.”
In response to the recent measles outbreak, which has proliferated particularly among the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Mayor Bill DeBlasio declared a state of emergency and banned unvaccinated minors from public spaces.
There have been 285 diagnosed cases of measles in the city since October and children comprise 246 of those cases. Twenty-one people have been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak but there have been no fatalities.
City health officials have attributed 40 measles cases directly to the Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov in Williamsburg, which allowed unvaccinated students to enroll prior to the order. However, the Health Department said Monday that the school is now in compliance with the order.
Most Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg are vaccinated but because they live together closely in an insulated community, a small number of unvaccinated children can lead to a broader outbreak.
“It has nothing to do with Judaism. People are afraid. It’s damaging. People are afraid of the medicine,” one member of the community told CBS News.