By Tim Harfmann
As Yoel Binyomin dropped off one of his eight children at a Williamsburg school, he was concerned about the recent measles outbreak. “You have to obey the doctors. If the doctors say you have to get vaccinated, then you have to take the vaccine,” said Binyomin.
According to the city’s Department of Health, there have been 204 confirmed cases in Brooklyn and Queens over the last few months. In Brooklyn, the Williamsburg neighborhood had 151 cases, Borough Park had 48, Midwood and Marine Park had two total cases, and one case was confirmed in each of Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach. In Queens, there was one confirmed case in Flushing.
Though anyone can contract the disease, the health department says most current cases are within the Jewish community. “There is a large anti-vaccine movement throughout the country. Therefore, I think what we’re seeing in the Orthodox Jewish community is just a microcosm of what’s going on throughout the country,” said Doctor Joseph Kaplovitz. He’s a pediatric specialist at NYU Langone. One issue is that parents believe a myth that a vaccine will do more harm than good. “The anti-vaccine movement, in general, has this belief that by giving the vaccine, I’m going to danger my own child. That becomes a very hard thing to try and fight,” said Dr. Kaplovitz. But he’s fighting back by raising awareness about the lengthy list of symptoms; “It starts off as fever, usually a high fever like 104 or 105; cough, congestion, runny nose; red eyes, what’s called conjunctivitis; and it also comes with a head-to-toe rash.”
Just last week, the Vatican’s Academy for Life said Catholic parents should vaccinate their children for the good of their family and community. Besides the vaccine, Dr. Kaplovitz said you can prevent measles by washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough.
Parents like Binyomin — who vaccinated all eight of his children — wanted others to do the same. “The people that don’t get vaccinated, I don’t know. I don’t make sense of people’s lives,” said Binyomin.
It is required that all children get the measles vaccine before being enrolled in any school within the five boroughs. Dr. Kaplovitz said parents should have their child vaccinated around the age of one, then get a booster shot between the ages of four and six.