The US is experiencing its biggest measles outbreak in a quarter of a century without end, and the epicenter is in New York City's Jewish Jewish communities, where false information about vaccinations is a problem for health officials trying to end the outbreak.
"The biggest challenge we're facing right now is misinformation and myths about the vaccine, and it's important that parents recognize that the vaccine is safe and effective," said Drs. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Fox News.
Propaganda against vaccinations targeting parents has surfaced in the Hasidic communities of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Rockland County, New York, and it appears that some mothers are convinced that the vaccines are more dangerous than the disease , The vast majority of the 704 confirmed measles cases in 22 states are located in these communities, according to the latest data released by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Monday. 432 of these cases are in Brooklyn.
A vaccine organization known as PEACH has published a 40-page booklet with misinformation and discredited science about why vaccines are unsafe. Among the many discredited claims it says that vaccines cause autism and consist of broken fetuses.
The booklet cites well-known rabbis who say it's all right to keep children unvaccinated and send them to school. It even compares the US government with the Nazis.
"The Nazis argued that their experiments were for" the greater good of society, "the brochure says. "Our right to refuse medical treatment is denied in the name of public health (the very logic used by the Nazis)."
Other so-called "anti-Vaxxer" have leaflets attached with the image of an attached vaccine needle A handgun pleading: "Vaccines are dangerous!"
Rockland County, New York health officials told Fox News that the misinformation convinced enough mothers in the Hasidic community there to trigger the longest ongoing measles outbreak since the disease was eradicated in the US in 2000. As of Monday, there are 202 confirmed measles cases in the enclave, about 45 minutes north of New York City.
"It is very frustrating because it is misinformation, it is a misconception of the people in the community and the concern of this group is that it concerns a population in which many decisions of mothers are made by word of mouth", said Dr. Patricia Ruppert, health commissioner of Rockland County.
An Orthodox Jewish Vaccination Task Force Consisting of More Than Two A dozen Jewish physicians have published their own leaflet called PIE to expose all the false statements of PEACH. Blima Marcus, chief of the task force, says other mothers in the Hasidic communities are more influential than rabbis.
"They [anti-vaxxers] all use emotional anxiety factors ̵
The anti-Vaxxers even make robocalls in their homes and have given in to a hotline number for live teleconferencing where misinformation is spread and vaccination facts are obstructed.
"When I was just about to listen, I listened to those who spoke with scientific information and their meaning to vaccinations and they were quickly turned off by the phone call," Dr. Ruppert.
To combat anti-vaccine messaging, the New York Department of Health conducted 30,000 robocalls in English and Yiddish. They have also published posters and handouts in both languages to inform the community about the benefits of vaccinations. The city has also issued a rare mandatory vaccination instruction for all adults and children in affected postcodes in Williamsburg. Immediate orders have been issued in Rockland County, discouraging anyone with measles or those who have been exposed to measles from going out in public.
Since the outbreak in October, more than 40,000 MMR vaccinations have been performed. In Rockland County, officials say there are probably still a few thousand children still unvaccinated, and a prescribed vaccination order would be the next step if the outbreak continues.
Schools in both New York communities were asked to exclude unvaccinated children from participation. The NYC Department of Health shut down seven schools for non-compliance with the city, five of which reopened on Monday.
The outbreaks in New York began when unvaccinated travelers, especially children, traveled to Israel and became infected in October. According to the CDC, the combination of imported measles from Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines and an above-average vaccination coverage in Hasidic communities fueled the outbreak of measles.
Overall, the number of measles worldwide has risen by 300 percent due to increased growth of under-vaccinated communities. According to the CDC, about 75 percent of measles cases have occurred in island communities such as the Amish or the Hasidic Jews over the past five years. These communities have grown closer together, have more children and are vulnerable to misinformation.
The CDC expects the outbreak to continue and the number of cases to increase, but in the meantime, some Orthodox leaders fear that growing attention may increase anti-Semitic sentiment.
"The fact is that anti-Vaxx people exist in every community in every way of life," said Yossi Gestetner, spokesman for the Council for Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs. "I am very concerned about the potential of profiling experiences and anti-Semitic incidents."
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. Rabbis reaffirm that the Jewish religion does not prohibit vaccination. Nevertheless, thousands of people are said to have received religious vaccine exemptions in New York.
On Monday, Rockland County officials gathered in the capital city of the state of Albany in support of a US Senate bill that would ban religious exemptions from vaccinations.  "A mixture of complacency, misinformation, skepticism about vaccinations and lack of access to these shots has led to inadequate vaccination coverage worldwide," said Rockland County Chief Executive Ed Ed. "As a state and nation, we have to deal with it now."