WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. measles outbreak, especially prevalent among haredi Orthodox Jews, has topped 700 cases — the most in one year since the Center for Disease Control declared the disease eliminated in the United States in 2000.
The record outbreak of 704 cases reported last week by the CDC includes 400 cases in New York and its suburbs, where it has mainly affected the haredim, topping the 667 cases in 2014. Before the disease was declared eradicated, the previous high was 963 cases in 1994.
The CDC pinned the resurgence on the unvaccinated and those who brought back measles from other countries. The outbreaks in Orthodox Jewish communities were associated with travelers who carried the disease back from Israel and Ukraine, according to the CDC.
Despite institutional pressure, a strain of opposition to vaccines has persisted in haredi communities based on false claims that vaccines are ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Large families, close-knit communities and the complexity of timing immunizations for a family’s many young children also have contributed to the outbreak.
The majority of Orthodox Jewish children are vaccinated, according to statistics issued by the New York state and New York City health departments. There is no religious reason not to be vaccinated. Prominent rabbis in New York have called on their followers to vaccinate their children.