Orthodox Jews reassured that vaccine is kosher after Stamford Hill measles outbreak

Orthodox Jewish families have refused vaccines in the past, believing them to be non-Kosher. Pic: Matthew Lotz

Following an outbreak of measles in Hackney,  local GPs have urged patients to ensure their children complete both doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The measles outbreak has particularly affected the Orthodox Jewish communities in Stamford Hill over the past month. Previously, Orthodox Jewish families have refused their children vaccinations because they believe the MMR vaccine is not Kosher.

Levi Schapiro, from Jewish Community Council of North London (JCCNL), the main representative body for the Orthodox Charedi community, rejected this belief saying: “The idea that the vaccination is not Kosher is nonsense. Children and families have been lined up at GPs waiting to receive the necessary treatments.”

The outbreak in Stamford Hill has caused GPs in the area to extend their opening hours so they can offer more appointments to patients and their children to complete the MMR vaccine.

Stamford Hill Practice, Cranwich Road Surgery and Spring Hill Practice are among the local surgeries doing this. 

Dr Joseph Spitzer, from Cranwich Road Surgery, said: “Immunise before it is too late, to protect your children and other people’s children from measles and many other preventable diseases.”

A spokesperson from Public Health England said the organisation are aware of the measles outbreak within the Orthodox Jewish communities in Hackney and its neighbouring borough, Haringey. She said: “We are making every effort to raise awareness of the issue within these communities.”

Dr. Spitzer said it is important to immunise early. Pic: Pixnio

A study by the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, which was published by the Centres for Disease Control in 2013, researched what it called an “ongoing” outbreak of measles within the Charedi Orthodox Jewish Community in Hackney.

Vaccination coverage within the 2013 Orthodox community was lower than in the general population of London ,which lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Data from the London Datastore shows the number of children aged 5 in Hackney who have received only the first dose or both doses of the MMR vaccine from 2011-2018.

The percentage of 5 year-olds who have received both the first and second MMR dose in the ELL boroughs, Hackney is ranked in second place after Croydon which has 78.2%. Tower Hamlets is in third place with 72.8%. Lewisham is in last place amongst the ELL boroughs and London overall with just 66.7%of 5 year olds immunised for MMR.

The London borough with the highest number of 5 year-olds immunised for MMR is Bromley with 87.6%.

Dr Anita Bell said one in every ten people who get the disease end up in hospital with complications and sadly one in every thousand die.

Schapiro said the JCCNL “has been at the forefront in challenging the measles outbreak”.

He added: “We don’t accept the fact the outbreak is entirely the fault of the Charedi community. We have been proactive in challenging this current outbreak and have reached out to the government and the department for health to request extra funding.”

Councillor Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Health in Hackney, said: “There are a wide and extensive range of programmes to inform and encourage parents to give their children the MMR vaccination.”

For more information about the MMR vaccination, visit the NHS website here.

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