Visiting New York’s Jewish Quarter, where 228 people have measles

Doctors and prominent rabbis encourage vaccination of children, yet some parents remain suspicious. The ultra-orthodox action group PEACH distributes leaflets and magazines against vaccination. They claim that the vaccinations contain cells from human fetuses, DNA from pigs and that the shots cause autism or other conditions. Scientists call the claims nonsense.

“It is unfair to the children,” complains a father at the school. “The parents choose not to vaccinate, but the children get sick.” He pauses as he weighs his words. He winds his corkscrew curls around his fingers. “I think that only a small group of people refuse to vaccinate children. Fortunately, the mayor is taking increasingly tougher measures.”

He’s referring to Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York. With the Passover holiday approaching, he wants to kill measles before the disease spreads further. Children who have not been vaccinated are not allowed to go to school in parts of this ward. In addition, De Blasio is considering fining the parents of non-vaccinated children with $ 1,000.

‘Not the right information’

Once most children are in school in Williamsburg, the street scene is dominated by adult men dressed in black. In between, Miryam pushes a pram in front of him. “Why does everyone here have old-fashioned cell phones?” She asks with a laugh. “We don’t want smartphones that affect the quality of life. That’s why many people only have internet at work.”

But that also has disadvantages, as Miryam finds out at work at a Jewish primary school. “My job is to convince parents to get the shot. But that is not easy if they have little access to the internet. They once came to their opinion and we cannot offer them the correct information online.”

Also dangerous in developed countries

The alarm bells sounding in the United States about this measles outbreak is due to the fact that nine children were killed in 1991 in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, these remain exceptional circumstances. In developed countries, measles is relatively unlikely to lead to death. Still, the health risks can be great. The disease can lead to brain and pneumonia, as well as permanent deafness.

Gary Schlesinger is the leader of the medical practice Parking in Williamsburg. The vast majority of the visitors are Jewish. To prevent his patients from contracting measles in his clinic, he bans people who will not be vaccinated.

He has also spoken to people from the anti-vaccination campaign. Schlesinger tried to make it clear to them that the vaccinations are kosher since you don’t eat them, but inject them. “But I can’t get through to them. Too bad, because this hardcore group is really spreading misinformation.”

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