ALBANY, N.Y. (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 Orthodox Jewish community hardest hit by measles.
Ulster County has imposed measles vaccine or evidence of immunity in all day camps and overnight camps, becoming the last county in the region to impose vaccination requirements. Rockland County has announced a similar order this month, following mandates from Sullivan and Orange counties.
"We need to make sure that our t is crossed and that we are sprinkled to make sure that all these vaccination records are well recorded and have been finely worked to make sure everything is in compliance," he said. said Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, of Camp Emunah, in Ulster County. , which hosts many girls from a Chabad community in Brooklyn's Crown Heights.
"In the past, where 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 does not prohibit children from attending if they have not been vaccinated against measles.
Children are still required to be vaccinated against measles in New York schools, and governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law Thursday removing an exemption for children whose parents oppose the vaccination on religious grounds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 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 less 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, paving the way for the virtual elimination of measles in the United States in 2000. But it has experienced a resurgence on several occasions, including 667 in 2014.
Hecht and others pointed out that vaccinations were widely accepted by most members of the Orthodox community, recalling the rabbis in Brooklyn and Rockland County who claimed that it was a relatively small group of influential parents. by anti-vaccination propaganda – and not by religious teachings – that had resisted vaccinations.
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 state-regulated camps in the county, 139 are Orthodox Jewish camps.
"We are attracting such a population from New York, where this measles outbreak 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, civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman said Friday that he thought these cases should be removed as New York removed religious exemptions.
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 Hasidic boys in Monticello. Landau said that New York schoolchildren participating in the camp should have already been vaccinated because of the city 's order in April.
Rabbi Dovid Teichman, director of Camp Govoah, which hosts Orthodox 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."