With a fourth confirmed case of measles in Baltimore this week and concern that travel between there and the Washington area during Passover could aid in the spread of the highly infectious disease, Orthodox
organizations here held a free vaccination clinic on Monday.
About 250 people came to Young Israel Shomrai Emunah synagogue in Silver Spring to receive the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine, according to Debra Aplan, a public health administator with the Montgomery County Department of Health, which administered the vaccine.
The Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington, an Orthodox organization, has encouraged
Orthodox Jews to become immunized if they haven’t already.
“We felt it was critically important to do what we could to help address and minimize if possible the impact of the measles spreading,” said Rabbi Yosef Singer, president of the rabbinical council, also known as Vaad Harabbanim.
In a statement to encourage people to immunize, the rabbinical council wrote, “We can think of no greater act of chesed [kindness] than protecting the health and wellbeing of our beloved families, friends, and community. This is especially critical now, during this Pesach season, which is characterized by frequent travel to and from communities which have suffered measles outbreaks.”
The clinic targeted adults ages 30 to 62. “For anyone older than 62, the vaccine was not developed or very hard to get,” Singer said. “So anyone 62 and older has been exposed and does not require vaccination. And anyone younger than 30 basically has the vaccine that is more potent.”
Organizers hoped to hold the clinic before the holiday, said Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, executive director of Agudath Israel of Maryland, an Orthodox government relations agency, who organized the Silver Spring clinic as well as two clinics in Baltimore. He said time constraints prevented the clinic from being held
Concern over the spread of measles led two Washington Orthodox synagogues to announce they are barring any families who choose not to vaccinate their children from entering.
“It’s a free country and people can do what they’re going to do,” Sadwin said about those who do not vaccinate their kids, “It’s hard to force them to do something they don’t want to do.”
It takes 10 to 14 days for the vaccine to become effective.
There was no waiting at the clinic. After filling out the forms, patients were escorted to a room where several volunteers were ready with syringes. A simple roll of the sleeve, a dab of antiseptic and a pinch of the needle was all it took.