A New York county has banned unvaccinated minors from public places, in an unprecedented move aiming to contain a measles outbreak that has affected the area since October, according to CNN.
Rockland County, just north of New York City, has faced the longest-lasting outbreak of the disease since it was declared eliminated in 2000. The outbreak is now in its sixth month, with 153 confirmed cases.
Starting on Wednesday, unvaccinated people under the age of 18 will be banned from schools, churches, restaurants, stores, and public transportation.
“Public places are defined as: a place where more than 10 persons are intended to congregate,” according to a press release from John Lyon, director of strategic communications for County Executive Ed Day.
We just want to encourage everyone to do the right thing so we can stop this outbreak,” according to Lyon. He also called the measure “extremely unusual,” saying he doesn’t “believe it’s been done anywhere in the country before.”
“This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm, to ensure that everyone takes proper action to protect themselves and their neighbors; for the health and safety of all of us in Rockland,” said a news release from Day.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for children between 12 and 15 months old, and then again between the ages of 4 and 6. The vaccine, however, has been a focus for anti-vaccination campaigns. In Rockland county, segments of the public have refused to cooperate with vaccination efforts to contain the outbreak.
The order was limited to minors in order to avoid preventing adults from going to work, but authorities are encouraging adults to get vaccinated as well. Since the start of the outbreak, 17,000 people have received vaccinations.
They’ll enforce the order as part of investigations into how each infected patient was exposed to measles in the first place. If that process turns up interactions with unvaccinated individuals in a public space, they will be referred to the district attorney’s office.
According to Day:
“As this outbreak has continued, our inspectors have begun to meet resistance from those they are trying to protect. They have been hung up on or told not to call again. They’ve been told ‘we’re not discussing this; do not come back’ when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations. This type of response is unacceptable and irresponsible. It endangers the health and well-being of others and displays a shocking lack of responsibility and concern for others in our community.”