County Executive’s Corner “Preventing the Next Outbreak”

By County Executive Ed Day

This week I took another logical step in dealing with our measles outbreak; I asked for the Federal government’s help in preventing the next outbreak we might face. As many of you know, our outbreak began last October when seven travelers from overseas visited Rockland while they were infected with measles. These seven people were the flashpoint for our outbreak which has led to multiple hospitalizations in intensive care units and even an infant being born prematurely.

I requested that President Trump and Rockland’s Federal elected officials intervene via Executive Order or Congressional legislation with the specific goal of requiring visitors from other countries to present certification of appropriate immunization before being allowed entry to our country.

Before U.S. citizens travel to other countries it is strongly recommended that they receive certain vaccinations depending on the country they are visiting. It is only logical that, as this outbreak was brought in from other countries by people, we take the next step in protecting our citizens. We as a country should decide what diseases we should have covered nationally to prevent further outbreaks like the ones sweeping the nation.

Our policy from the start has been to maximize immunizations while minimizing exposures, and we have seen success. Our Department of Health has offered dozens of free public vaccination clinics, we have excluded children from school until they get vaccinated or their school reaches the 95% vaccination rate required for “herd immunity,” we have ordered those with measles or exposed to measles to stay home, we have held countless outreach meetings and tried in numerous ways to educate the public about the importance and safety of vaccination.

To date, 21,109 MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccinations have been given in Rockland since October 2018. This is compared to 1,200 MMR’s given per year on average in Rockland. Thank you to our residents who have done the right thing and gotten vaccinated.

Our actions are clearly having an effect. We have done everything possible locally to end this outbreak and now it is time for the Federal government and New York State to do the same. Our State legislators in Albany must pass the bill eliminating all non-medical exemptions, and the Federal government must require those visiting our great country to be immunized. This is a public health issue and we need help.

This needs to be done soon, the measles outbreak has grown to affect 24 states, it is spreading and taking root. The time for talk is over; the time for immediate action is here and now.