Measles outbreak: Rockland County officials report spike in vaccinations after emergency declaration

ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- Rockland County officials say they've seen a spike in measles vaccinations since declaring a state of emergency that involved prohibiting non-vaccinated minors from public places, but they say more people need to get protected before upcoming religious holidays begin.

Health officials say there are currently 157 confirmed reported cases of measles in the county dating back to October. There have been no fatalities, but officials say the state of emergency is necessary to contain the outbreak.

County Executive Ed Day said there have been at least 500 new vaccinations since the emergency was declared, and 17,450 since the outbreak began five months ago.

"We're gaining compliance by the fact that we're telling law-abiding citizens, law-abiding people in Rockland, that it is the law to go forward and get your children immunized," he said. "We're giving them a reason, in particular, beyond the medical reasons. We have upcoming holidays in two major faiths in this county."

They also confirmed new areas of possible public exposure related to recent cases. The highly infectious disease can live on surfaces for two hours after an infected person was present.

--Uber that initially traveled to Monsey Hub shopping plaza in Monsey on March 20 from 1:20 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a risk of exposure until 3:30 p.m.
--Nyack Taxi that initially traveled from Monsey Hub shopping plaza in Monsey on March 20 from 2:20 p.m to 3 p.m., with a risk of exposure until 5 p.m.
--Rockland Kosher Supermarket on Orchard Street in Monsey on March 24 from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.
--La Familia Taxi that initially traveled from Rockland Kosher Supermarket on March 24 between 3 p.m. to 3:05 p.m., with a risk of exposure until 5:05 p.m.

Officials say anyone in the vicinity could have potentially been exposed. High-risk groups include pregnant women, children under 6 months of age, the immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, those who have not been vaccinated against the measles, and those who were born before 1957 and are immunosuppressed

RELATED: What to know about measles symptoms, vaccine and treatment

Demonstrators staged a protest Thursday to fight for their right to choose not to vaccinate their children, wearing T-shirts that read, "My religion, my family, my choice," and "Research before vaccinating" as they gathered at the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack.

It was billed on social media as "Unvaccinated Civil Disobedience," with some calling it government overreach or an example of religious persecution, as the outbreak has mostly affected the Orthodox Jewish community.

Still, the overwhelming concern was that the MMR vaccine itself is not safe.

"You're forcing on healthy people, you're mandating on healthy people something that has no liability," activist Steve Urow said. "You can't sue the manufacturer, and it is untested with a placebo, and there is a long list of serious side effects."

Day dismissed their beliefs, issuing a statement that read, "They merely reaffirm that more work must be done to educate those who have been misled by junk science and misinformation."

Health officials say the best way to help protect yourself and the community is to remain up-to-date with measles vaccinations, and that high community vaccination rates help protect people who cannot get vaccinated because they are too young or have specific health conditions.

Free MMR vaccines are available by calling:

--The Rockland County Department of Health at 845-364-2497 or 845-364-2520 to schedule an appointment to get a free MMR vaccine at the Pomona health complex.
--The Rockland County Department of Health Spring Valley Family Planning Clinic is also providing MMR vaccines, by appointment to Family Planning patients. Family Planning Clinic patients can call 845-364-2531 to schedule an appointment.

In addition, MMR vaccines are available at local health care providers or by calling a local federally qualified health center.

RELATED: Rockland County Department of Health measles outbreak Information

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