NEW YORK (AP) – New York City is closing an Orthodox school in Brooklyn because it continues to admit unvaccinated students in violation of a city order.
The central school Satta School for Boys, a Hasidic school in Williamsburg, will be closed Tuesday afternoon for violating stipulations on vaccines and vaccination records, the Jewish Telegraph Agency said. It is the tenth orthodox school in New York to be closed this year due to the issue, according to a city official with knowledge of the matter.
Williamsburg, which has a large Orthodox population, has been experiencing a measles outbreak since last year that infected 588 people in New York. Nearly three quarters of these cases occurred in Williamsburg. The city says the outbreak is mostly concentrated in the Orthodox community.
In April, the city declared a public health emergency about the outbreak, forcing people in four Williamsburg zip codes to vaccinate. The city also announced that it would be closing schools in Williamsburg that allow the participation of unvaccinated students. Nine of the ten schools closed so far are in Williamsburg. The 10 is in the Queens neighborhood.
In addition, last week the city issued subpoenas for 173 people for failing to comply with the public health emergency order, 68 of which ended up receiving vaccines or providing proof of immunization.
Orthodox authorities have called for their communities to vaccinate, and community advocates say that Orthodox vaccination rates in Brooklyn are high.
But according to data shared by the New York City Department of Health, beginning in early 2018, only 67% of Williamsburg children aged 19-35 months had their first dose of measles vaccine as opposed to the city average of 88%. . More recent data was not available.
According to data from the State Department of Education, more than 20 Orthodox schools in Brooklyn had immunization rates below 90% last year. Experts recommend an immunization rate of at least 95 percent.
Rockland County, New York, where the Orthodox city of Monsey is located, also had a significant number of measles cases. Only about 77 percent of the county is vaccinated, according to state data.
In the case of Satmar's school, the city official said, school officials did not meet deadlines to provide the city with immunization records for students. When these records were received, the investigations showed that the school was still admitting students and teachers who were not vaccinated.
The school did not respond to a JTA request for comment. But one of the parents told JTA that the issue is with influential families in the community who do not vaccinate their children and continue to send them to school, even if the school has asked them not to participate. In general, the father said, the school encourages vaccination.
"The school endorses this and they warn everyone to vaccinate, but there are people in power who do not, and here comes the problem," her mother said. "You have people in power, for example, someone who gives a lot of money to yeshiva, or he's a great rabbi, and your son does not get vaccinated … You can send them home for a day, for two days, but you you know, then he's coming back … You can not dismiss him for everything.
The school is not being advised in advance that it is being closed down so school administrators will not falsify the documents in advance.
To reopen, the school said, the school must come up with a corrective action plan that will ensure that it will no longer admit unvaccinated students. Faculty will need to know how to act if an unvaccinated student attends. Before the school reopens, the city will have to approve the school plan.
City officials will check in daily to ensure the school remains closed in the interim.
The city announced Tuesday afternoon that in the two months since the public health emergency was declared, more than 3,800 measles vaccines were administered to children in Williamsburg – nearly twice the number administered in the same period last year.
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