Rockland County, New York health officials have declared the area is experiencing an emergency amid an ongoing measles “outbreak.” In response to the declaration of a State of Emergency by Rockland County Executive Ed Day, the entire county plans to prohibit unvaccinated children from being present in public spaces for 30 days, effective at midnight on Wednesday, March 27. The Health Department is also offering free vaccines.
“We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk,” Day said on Tuesday. “This is a public health crisis and it’s time we sound the alarm.”
The temporary restriction on the presence of the unvaccinated population of Rockland County in public places is the first of its kind in the nation, according to Day, and only pertains to those under the age of 18 who cannot prove that they have received the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.
Interestingly, those who are medically unable to be vaccinated are exempt from the ban, despite the fact that many medical exemptions are granted to those who are immunocompromised and at increased risk of some of the more dangerous side effects of measles.
County officials maintain that the majority of the 153 confirmed cases have been children, most of which have not been vaccinated. This fact, coupled with the increased nationwide pressure on parents to vaccinate their children along with recent threats of mandatory vaccination, is likely why only those under 18 have been targeted. It should be noted, however, that, according to the CDC itself, “Many adults are not fully vaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to preventable infectious diseases.”
According to Rockland County, 82.1% of the 153 confirmed cases were not vaccinated, 4% received one dose of MMR, 4% received two doses of MMR, and 9.9% have an unknown vaccination status. One dose of the MMR vaccine has a 93% protection rate while two doses offers 97% protection. Of the 153 cases, 15% were in children less than 1 year of age, 23.8% were 1-3 years old, 45.7% 4-18 years old, and 15.2% occurred in those over the age of 19.
The MMR vaccine was first licensed for use by Merck in 1971. Prior to the use of the combined vaccine, a standalone measles vaccine came into use in 1963. While many adults born before the advent and widespread use of these vaccines may have never been vaccinated against measles, many have natural lifelong immunity thanks to natural infection. Adults who were never vaccinated or infected, or who were vaccinated years ago but now have waning immunity, and are at risk of contracting and spreading are excluded from the county’s declaration.
Back in 1920, the U.S. recorded 469,924 cases of the measles, with associated 7,575 deaths. On average, around 500,000 cases were recorded each year from 1958-1962, with just under 450 deaths each year as well. It is thought, however, that there was likely a massive underreporting of cases due to how commonplace the disease was prior to the introduction of the vaccine. According to the CDC, “virtually all children acquired measles, the number of measles cases probably approached 3.5 million per year“—making the estimated 450 deaths far less significant.
Conversely, 1,179 injuries and 82 deaths have been reported to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) since 1998, with 486 of those cases having been compensated by the U.S. government. While the NVICP has awarded $3,788,954,917.19 to petitioners since it’s inception, it should be noted that taking a suspected case of vaccine related injury or death to the NVICP is notoriously difficult.
Nearly 100,000 adverse reactions including hospitalizations, injuries and deaths associated with measles vaccination have been reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) as of November 30, 2018—459 of which are deaths. Much like the NVICP, VAERS reports are a less than ideal picture of the true effects of vaccine injury. Both Harvard University and the FDA have concluded that VAERS captures a mere 1% of adverse reaction events. If true, actual deaths associated with the measles vaccine since VAERS began collecting data may be closer to 45,900.
While measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. back in 2000, a handful of “outbreaks” have made the news in recent years. March 21, there have been 319 confirmed cases of the measles. By definition, an outbreak is a “sudden or violent start of something unwelcome,” like a disease. Critics of the recent push for mandatory vaccinations, the removal of conscientious exemptions from state laws, and what they see as an increase in pro-vaccination alarmism question the use of the term “outbreak” to describe these recent measles cases.
Rockland County’s so-called outbreak began last fall, with an international traveler with a suspected case of the measles. The CDC reports that those traveling from the U.S. to areas where the measles virus is present should receive the vaccine before traveling, so as not to bring it back home with them.
And for those likening the ban to the days of “your papers, please” in Nazi Germany, Day emphasized that local law enforcement will not be asking random people for their vaccination records. However, those found in violation of the ban “will be held accountable,” according to Day.
While this action may seem drastic, it is not the first step taken by Rockland County officials. Previously, nearly 6,000 unvaccinated children were pulled out of school, a federal judge barred 50 children from attending Green Meadow Waldorf School for at least three weeks, and, as a result of an intense public health campaign, nearly 17,000 doses of MMR were administered in only 26 weeks.
Despite their efforts, Rockland County has been unable to curb the spread and parents of students barred from attending Green Meadow Waldorf have sued the Rockland County health department.
Interestingly, while an unvaccinated person will know they have the measles—and likely act accordingly—those who are vaccinated but still become infected (and thus contagious) will present milder symptoms, while likely continuing to interact with others on a daily basis assuming they’ve come down with a simple cold, the flu, or a benign rash. Nevertheless, County Executive Day maintains that the circumstances the county is facing “clearly calls” for such drastic action.
In order to prevent the spread of the measles, if you or someone you know has contracted the virus, please stay home. If you live in or around the Rockland County area, officials have released locations, dates, and times when possible exposure may have occurred. For those directly affected, up-to-date information is available on Rockland County’s website.