Typically, I am not the one to get into hysterics about dangers that many in the community fear. Traveling with my kids to Mexico City when everyone thought we were crazy? Yup. Spending Shavuot in Zika infested Puerto Rico? Check.
But with all of the news lately regarding Measles outbreaks within the Orthodox Jewish community, it got me thinking… if only one person that is not immunized attends a program at a hotel, they could potentially be a carrier for the disease and spread it to others that can’t be immunized, like babies, pregnant women, and those that are immunocompromised.
Measles can cause a whole list of complications or death, and it is contagious. It’s not something I take lightly.
Per the CDC, “Children should get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.” The first dose confers 93% immunity and the booster lends an additional 4%, making children with both shots 97% immune. Any unimmunized infant is at risk, and pediatricians have been offering shots earlier than the traditional timetable in order to offer them some protection. If you have a baby with one shot or a toddler who has not yet had a booster, contact your pediatrician THIS WEEK to ask about getting the shots early. It takes time for the vaccine to take effect and should be done in advance of your Passover travels.
For the adults reading this, there’s a high chance that the vaccines you received as a kid are still effective. But, it’s possible that they’re less effective today. Those 50+ may be more likely to need a vaccine booster for Measles. If you’re an adult that is unvaccinated attending a Passover program, you are putting yourself at risk of contracting the disease should any carriers be in attendance.
For adults, “If you’re unsure whether you’re immune to measles, you should first try to find your vaccination records or documentation of measles immunity. If you do not have written documentation of measles immunity, you should get vaccinated with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Another option is to have a doctor test your blood to determine whether you’re immune. But this option is likely to cost more and will take two doctor’s visits. There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).” (CDC)
Additionally, it behooves the Passover Programs to send out notices to all of their participants that if they are sick or have contracted Measles, they should stay home. Surely this is a sensitive issue, but those attending programs that may be carriers of the disease can only do harm to others.
We encourage you to contact your program organizer to send out a Measles notice to not risk the health and welfare of the hundreds of other program attendees.
Article written with contributions from Bethany Mandel, Editor at Ricochet, and mom of 3.
For those not at a program, here’s our list of kosher restaurants open on Chol Hamoed Pesach.