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Rockland County ban on unvaccinated kids begins; free measles immunizations offered

POMONA, N.Y. — Wednesday was day one of Rockland County's ban on children unvaccinated against measles in public places. The order was announced yesterday in response to a major measles outbreak in the area.

The number of confirmed measles cases in the area ticked higher today by two, for a new total of 155.

The county held a free vaccine clinic Wednesday afternoon in Pomona in an effort to combat the disease.

"If the doctors say this is what you need to do, then this is what you need to do," said Renee Kahan, who was among the first of about 12 people to get vaccinated at the clinic today.

She said she got vaccinated a while back but heard old immunizations might now be outdated. "As a sense of responsibility, and also I don’t want to come down with measles," she said.

Medical staff took the temperatures of children and adults before they entered the building.

Children who have not been vaccinated are barred from all public places as of midnight early Wednesday morning, including schools, shopping centers, buses, trains, parks and houses of worship.

"It brings fresh attention to the seriousness of this issue," said Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. "There is a lot of frustration within the community as to why this goes on for such a long time."

Rockland County's measles outbreak has particularly impacted the large Orthodox Jewish community here, beginning roughly five months ago when a person was infected in Israel and brought the measles here, according to the health department.

"The extreme step was necessary because we’ve been trying to step up isolations persons who are unvaccinated," said county attorney Thomas E. Humbach.

County officials say the ban was prompted by a lack of cooperation by some, when county health department officials went out to investigate confirmed cases.

"Those who do not cooperate, they have slammed the door. They have opened it and said don’t come back," said Rockland Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert.

"And at that point it impairs the county’s ability to help the general public avoid this disease," said Humbach.

County officials say police are not patrolling and asking for vaccination papers, but if the county investigates a confirmed measles case and discovers there was exposure to others in public places, the parents will be prosecuted.

This order will remain in effect for the next 30 days.

Anyone caught in violation could face up to $500 in fines or three months in jail.

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