How the Current Measles Outbreak Should Be Handled

The recent measles outbreak in the United States has sent the public into a panic. The disease, which was stated to have been eradicated in the US in 2000, is dangerously contageous and there have now been 555 cases reported across the nation beginning in January 1st to April 11th of this year. The most recent location to be affected by this outbreak is Brooklyn, New York, an area with a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. The disease is thought to be spreading so rapidly in this location because of travelers from Israel, where a similar outbreak is occuring, who have brought the disease to these orthodox communities. Due to the fact that many Orthodox Jewish families choose to not vaccinate their children because to religious reasons, despite the fact that many rabbis have actually openly promoted immunization.

The dangerous outbreak has led public officials to do everything within their power to minimize the spread, a feat that has received both positive and negative responses. Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared a public health emergency and made vaccinations mandatory in hopes that with the threat of legal action hanging over their heads, anti-vaxxers will get their vaccinations. Health officials are stating that with every new measles case they will check the health records of people in contact with the person infected, threatening to fine these people up to $1,000 if they do not comply with the mandatory laws . Previously, in December, de Blasio banned unvaccinated children from attending school in hopes to slow the spread of the disease, yet this order was deemed ineffective by public officials as the disease rages on. With strict laws being put into effect and bans on public institutions being created, the question on everyone’s mind is: will this work? And if it doesn’t where do we go from here?

While anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists definitely do exist and are to be blamed for the spread of myths fueling the anti-vaccine movement, the majority of anti-vaxxers are simply scared parents. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind when I think about vacccine hesitancy. Anti-vaxxers have chosen to ignore the evidence and facts that have been thrown at them countless of times because it is human nature to not want to be proven wrong; everyone likes to be right. Instead of angrily trying to convince anti-vaxxers that they are incorrect, crazy, or just plain dumb, I believe we should try to reason with them and kindly ensure that through education and conversation they don’t have anything to be afraid of. While strict laws may play a general role in the solution to this problem, it also reinforces the lack of trust and anger anti-vaxxers have towards public institutions. People like to feel like they have a say and that they are in control of themselves and it is important we allow anti-vaxxers to feel like they are making decisions for themselves and not being forced in to anything. This situation may be urgent, but the only way we will stop the spread of anti-vaccination propaganda through generations is to build trust and education over time.