The uptick in reported cases of the measles in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, has brought parents to clinics and doctors’ offices to vaccinate their children.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry said the total number of measles cases in the country has reached 1,401, most of which are in Jerusalem with 838 residents infected – and the vast majority of those cases are in ultra-orthodox families.
After an emergency meeting on Monday, the ministry instituted new “intensive” measures to cap the growing number of cases by extending the hours at family health (tipat halav) clinics until 8:00 p.m. for vaccinations; recruiting more nurses and medical staff to administer vaccinations; dispatching mobile vaccination units to specific neighborhoods where parents typically do not vaccinate their children; and denying access to schools and certain areas in hospitals to individuals who have not been vaccinated.
The ministry’s efforts appear to be working, as the family health center in Jerusalem’s eclectic Nahlaot neighborhood was especially crowded on Wednesday afternoon following the news surrounding this rise in measles cases.
The waiting room was full with parents sitting and standing while the floor was strewn with babies in strollers and toddlers crawling around on the floor – everyone there were waiting to get their children vaccinated against the measles.
A majority of the families were of religious backgrounds.
Two mothers with toddlers told The Jerusalem Post
that they were waiting to give their children their first round of vaccinations against the measles.
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One mother donning a long skirt and head covering who did not give her name told the Post: “I did not vaccinate my children before, but after the news of the outbreak, I decided it’s time.” A mother of a 15-month-old toddler echoed her concern and action.
In Israel, the tipat halav (“drop of milk”) centers offer free early childcare for mothers and their children from pregnancy until the age of six. One of the main services they offer is vaccinations against infectious diseases such as the measles.
Maya Asher, mother of a two-year-old in Jerusalem’s German Colony, told the Post
that it wasn’t a question whether she should vaccinate her child; as soon as she needed to, she brought her daughter to the local clinic to immunize her, not just from the measles but from all of the infectious diseases from which she could protect her child.
Babies aged two months and up can start getting the first round of vaccines against the measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.
Asher explains that at the day care center where her daughter attends, all of the mothers, who are of secular or national-religious streams, are aware of this outbreak, are vaccinating their children and are questioning whether its origin is from the haredi community.
“I was sure that they were coming from these ‘anti-vaccination hippie people,’ but the other mothers – and now I – are starting to think that the ultra-Orthodox families are not immunizing their children.” she said.
Asher is now concerned that she may need to get another round of the vaccine to protect herself from this outbreak.
Last week, an 18-month-old baby died from contracting the measles from her parents. This was the first measles casualty in Israel in 15 years.