Health Department Holds ‘Tele-Townhall’ to Fight Back Against Anti-Vaccination Propaganda

The tele-townhall will run from 6 PM-7 PM; to join, call (917) 983-4660

April 30, 2019 — The Health Department today announced that it will host a tele-townhall to provide parents and community members with scientifically and medically accurate information on the danger of measles and the benefits of vaccination. Dr. Michael Phillips and Dr. Jennifer Lighter from NYU School of Medicine will be on the line to answer New Yorkers’ questions about the vaccine and measles. The tele-town hall will be moderated by the Health Department’s Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis. This tele-townhall is part of a larger strategy to combat anti-vaxx misinformation.

“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods. They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and others at risk.”

As of April 28, 2019, 21,284 doses of MMR vaccine have been administered to children 18 years of age and younger in Williamsburg and Borough Park since October 1, 2018. This is 8,995 vaccinations more compared to the same time period the year before. Although much progress has been achieved in increasing vaccination rates in Williamsburg, more vaccination is needed to end this outbreak.

The Health Department will continue to expand outreach to the affected communities to provide education about the dangers of measles and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine to hasten the end of this outbreak, including an upcoming new public education campaign to run on Williamsburg’s bus shelters, phone kiosks, newspapers, buses and stores, as well as on digital platforms.

These recent activities continue to expand the outreach carried out by the Health Department throughout the outbreak which includes:

  • Meetings with rabbinical and community leaders, health care providers, and local elected officials to highlight the importance of getting vaccinated and the dangers of measles.
  • Collaborative outreach with trusted community partners such as Hatzolah and the Vaccine Task Force.
  • Publication of Yiddish and English ads in local Jewish newspapers, magazines, and websites.
  • Distribution of educational materials and approximately 29,000 pro-vaccination booklets (PDF) geared to the Orthodox community in both English and Yiddish.
  • Six rounds of robocalls that have gone out to about 30,000 households each.
  • This week individual calls to 16,000 households will be made reminding people in the community of the importance of vaccination.
  • Sent text messages to almost 16,000 numbers.
  • Use of social media to disseminate community responsive messages using Twitter and Whatsapp.
  • Direct technical assistance to health care providers serving the Orthodox Jewish communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park.
  • Sending four separate Health Alerts to over 13,000 local health care providers giving updated information on the evolving outbreak and clinical guidance to keep their patients healthy.

Current Case Count
As of April 29, 2019, 423 cases of measles have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak last October. 348 cases (82%) have occurred in Williamsburg (ZIP codes 11205, 11206, 11211, 11249), which has been under an Emergency Order issued April 9 requiring those who live or work in these ZIP codes to have been vaccinated with the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine (MMR). A small number of cases have occurred outside of these neighborhoods but have, to date, not resulted in sustained transmission of measles.

For more information, New Yorkers can visit the Health Department’s Measles page.



MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Gallahue / Michael Lanza, (347) 396-4177