Home / Health / Summer camp is the last front in the battle against the measles epidemic in the United States

Summer camp is the last front in the battle against the measles epidemic in the United States

ALBANY, NY (AP) – The fight against the worst measles outbreak in the United States in 27 years has a new front: the summer camp.

Vaccinations have become mandatory this summer for campers and staff in several northern New York City counties that fill each year with children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish community hardest hit by measles.

Ulster County has made the additional decision to impose measles vaccine or immunity evidence in overnight camps and overnight camps, thus becoming the last county of the country. region to impose vaccination requirements. Rockland County has announced a similar order this month, following the mandates of Sullivan and Orange counties.

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"We need to ensure that our t is crossed and our i are sprinkled to make sure that all these vaccination records are well recorded and finished to make sure everything is in compliance," said Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, from Camp Emunah of Ulster County, which hosts many girls from a Chabad community in the Brooklyn Crown Heights.

A sign warns against measles in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, April 10, 2019. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images / via JTA)

"In the past, we had accepted religious exemptions for certain things," said Hecht, who has his own blood checked for immunity, "now we can not."

New York State requires summer camps to maintain vaccination records for all campers, but do not prohibit children from attending if they are not vaccinated against measles.

However, children are forced to get measles shots in New York schools, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law on Thursday removing an exemption for children whose parents oppose vaccination for religious reasons.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio watches Governor Andrew Cuomo deliver remarks at a news conference after New York City Police have removed an explosive device from the Time Warner Center. October 24, 2018 in New York. (AP Photo / Kevin Hagen).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that as of June 1, more than 1,000 cases of measles had been reported in the United States since the beginning of the year, compared with fewer than 100 cases 10 years ago. . Most of these cases have been diagnosed in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Rockland County in the suburbs.

The CDC recommends that all people over one year of age be vaccinated, except for people with the disease while they were children. Those who have had measles are immune.

The vaccine, available in the 1960s, is considered safe and extremely effective, opening the way for measles reporting almost entirely in the United States in 2000. But it has experienced a recrudescence on several occasions, including 667 cases in 2014.

Hecht and others pointed out that vaccinations were widely accepted by most members of the ultra-Orthodox community, recalling the rabbis in Brooklyn and Rockland County who claimed it was a relatively small group of parents influenced by anti-vaccination propaganda – and not by religious teachings – who had resisted. inoculations.

Rabbi Hanoch Hecht. (Screenshot of YouTube screen)

The Orthodox Union said it had already demanded up-to-date vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine, for its 37 summer programs.

"Most leaders and rabbis have adopted the approach that vaccination is mandatory," Hecht said.

Health officials in New York have taken a harsh approach, making measles immunization mandatory for all people living in the Brooklyn district at the epicenter of the epidemic, fining people for failing to be vaccinated and closing 12 schools for excluding staff and students could not document immunity. The city announced Thursday the last two closures.

Now, as schools prepare to close for the summer, the fight continues in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley.

Sullivan County is located in the heart of the traditional Borscht Belt, and the region of lakes full of attractions still attracts thousands of people to its camps and bungalow colonies every summer. Of the 170 camps regulated by the state in the county, 139 are Jewish camps.

A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg on April 10, 2019 in New York. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP)

"We are attracting such a population from New York City, where the measles epidemic was," said Sullivan County spokesman Dan Hust. "It was considered prudent and wise."

Everyone is not in agreement. Orders from Sullivan and Orange counties have been challenged in state courts by parents of different religious denominations. However, the civil rights attorney, Michael Sussman, said on Friday that he felt these cases should be withdrawn given the withdrawal of religious exemptions by New York.

Several camp administrators interviewed by the Associated Press did not object to compulsory vaccination.

"This is not a problem for us," said Yoel Landau, director of Camp Rav Tov, a camp for Chassidic boys in Monticello. Landau said New York schoolchildren at the camp should have been vaccinated because of the city's April order.

Rabbi Dovid Teichman, director of Camp Govoah, who provides campers in rural Greene County, said staff members "analyzed every request to make sure everyone was vaccinated".

"I can not put anyone in danger," he said. "So if I find on the list of people who do not vaccinate, I do not take them to camp."

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