Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease, and we are seeing the highest number of cases in 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Across the country, more than 700 cases of the measles have been confirmed in 22 states.
To help combat the record number of measles cases across the country and in New York State, I have introduced legislation (S.5136-A) to counter misinformation about vaccines. The legislation calls for a state funded vaccine awareness campaign, and requires the New York State Health Department work with an outside contractor to develop the campaign, which can include social media outreach, public service announcements, and written materials. The awareness campaign would be funded through a check-off box on a personal income tax form so people can charitably give to the initiative.
The Senate Majority is currently doing a social media outreach campaign about vaccine awareness. Now we must go further and fund a campaign by the State Health Department so we can counter inaccurate information long-term, especially in communities that are being targeted with misinformation. In low vaccination communities, we have seen anti-vaccine propaganda such as magazines and pamphlets claiming vaccines are in opposition of Jewish law, that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism, and that children have been irreversibly harmed by vaccines. All these myths are false and have been debunked by science and medical professionals.
However, the overwhelming majority of the confirmed measles cases had not received the measles vaccine, suggesting more outreach like an awareness campaign is needed. As of May 1, 2019 there have been 206 confirmed cases of the measles in Rockland County. In New York City, Brooklyn and Queens has 423 confirmed cases of the measles as of April 29th. The scariest part of this is that the CDC has said the disease could regain a foothold in the U.S. if the outbreaks continue to grow.
Measles is an extremely contagious and can linger in the air for hours after an infected individual coughs and leaves the room. One person with measles can infect 12-18 other people in an unimmunized population. This is a higher rate than other dangerous viruses, including Ebola, HIV, or SARS. Further, young children, babies, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk for complications if they get the measles.
The CDC previously recommended the MMR vaccine for everyone over a year old, but now New York State is allowing doctors to give the vaccine to babies at six months in areas with ongoing outbreaks. It is incredibly important that people take this seriously, and speak with their doctor if they have not been vaccinated.