Strictly Orthodox rabbis met a senior Hackney public health official on Thursday to discuss the rising number of measles cases in the community.
Statistics released by Public Health England (PHE) this week record 41 cases of measles within the capital’s strictly Orthodox population since the beginning of the year.
A PHE spokesperson said the cases were predominantly in Hackney and Haringey, the boroughs covering Stamford Hill and South Tottenham, with a few in Barnet. Low vaccination rates were to blame.
Thursday’s meeting was between Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregation ministers and the deputy director of public health for the City and Hackney, Jose Figueroa.
It was organised by leading Orthodox community figure Rabbi Avraham Pinter, who is urging senior rabbis “to strongly endorse the MMR to their communities. We are taking it very seriously.”
Rabbi Pinter attributed a combination of factors to the MMR vaccine being taken up by an estimated 70 to 80 per cent of the community — a 90 per cent take-up is considered necessary to prevent an outbreak.
“First, the perception that measles is a ‘healthy illness’. It’s not seen as a great danger to health. What people don’t realise is that for most people it’s nothing, but you might get a person who is pregnant or elderly. We need to do that education.”
He further cited the now discredited autism scare over vaccinations and practical problems particularly relevant to the strictly Orthodox. “When you’ve got a large family, waiting times in surgeries is an issue.
“There has been tremendous coverage of encouragement in the Charedi press but it has been soft encouragement. That’s why I’m going down the line of asking the rabbis,” Rabbi Pinter added.