This year is quickly shaping up to be the year government and other businesses hit the anti-vaxxer movement with major setbacks. Now, a county in New York has declared a State of Emergency due to a measles outbreak and has banned unvaccinated children from public spaces, reports NBC.
"Rockland County declared a countywide State of Emergency relating to the ongoing measles outbreak," reports the outlet. "Effective at the stroke of midnight, Wednesday, anyone who is under 18 years of age and unvaccinated against the measles will be barred from public places until this declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive the MMR vaccination."
Unvaccinated people can receive an exemption if they produce proper records indicating a special medical condition that precludes them from the vaccine. With 153 confirmed cases, the measles outbreak has been ongoing for 26 weeks. Residents in Spring Valley, New Square, and Monsey have been affected. On Tuesday, Rockland County Executive Ed Day said their response to the outbreak is likely "the first such effort of this kind."
"We believe this to be the first such effort of this kind nationally and the circumstances we face here clearly call for that," Day said. "Rockland will lead the way in service and safety to the people here."
Day added that seven unvaccinated people entered Rockland County last year and were diagnosed with the measles. "Last year, not just one but seven unvaccinated travelers diagnosed with measles entered our county between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17 leading to 153 confirmed cases," he said. "This is the longest outbreak in the U.S. due to measles since the disease was officially eradicated in 2000."
Despite the ban, Day says the government will not engage in a crackdown by chasing unvaccinated people and hounding them into being "a part of the solution." However, people found in violation of the new measure could "spend six months in jail and/or a $500 fine," according to NBC. Even with that, Day says the motive is simply to alert the public, not arrest people.
Indeed, 2019 has been a year of horrible PR for the anti-vaxx movement. Most recently, Amazon Prime elected to jettison documentaries supporting the controversial position from its platform.
"Amazon has apparently started removing anti-vaccine documentaries from its Amazon Prime Video streaming service," reported CNN earlier this month. "The move came days after a CNN Business report highlighted the anti-vaccine comment available on the site, and hours after Rep. Adam Schiff wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying he is concerned 'that Amazon is surfacing and recommending' anti-vaccination books and movies."
The Amazon Prime decision followed the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the movement a global threat, which it classified as "vaccine hesitancy." The report also said that anti-vaxxers reject vaccinations for a variety of complex reasons, including complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence.
"Vaccine hesitancy threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases," WHO said. "Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved."
Measles, for instance, has seen a spike of 30% globally, though WHO was careful to say that "vaccine hesitancy" was just one of many causes for this.