Doctors in Jerusalem are concerned as Health Ministry data shows a sharp decline in immunizations among babies and toddlers. City workers are determining a plan of action to fight the trend.
Municipal chairman Yossi Heiman filed an urgent appeal recently to the city noting the trend, which is most pronounced in several of the city’s hareidi-religious neighborhoods.
Pediatricians say the decline in vaccinations is likely to put children’s health, and that of their families, at risk. As fewer children are vaccinated the “herd immunity” communities generally enjoy could be compromised, leading to more frequent outbreaks.
Jerusalem and the nearby Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood of Beit Shemesh have already seen outbreaks of measles and mumps in recent years. Despite the outbreaks many parents continue to avoid vaccines, primarly due to perceived health risks.
A large outbreak could pose a health threat to the entire city. Vaccines do not provide 100% protection from illness, and rely on herd immunity; in addition, there are many babies who have not received all their vaccines and who would be at particular risk.
The city is now working with the Health Ministry to combat the phenomenon with an awareness-raising campaign encouraging parents to vaccinate their young children.
Acting Mayor Rabbi Yosef Deitsch called on the religious community to set an example. “Those who keep Torah and mitzvot and are commanded ‘v’nishmartem m’od l’nafshotechem’ [‘take ye good heed unto yourselves’] must be an example for the rest of the community, and be the first” to vaccinate, he urged.