Today, New York City declared a public health emergency as 285 people have now been diagnosed with measles in the city since September. The city has also ordered mandatory measles vaccinations. Those who resists could face a $1,000 fine.

Most of these infections can be traced back to one unvaccinated child who contracted the disease while visiting Israel. The infected child then returned to the United States where he infected other unvaccinated children in his community. 

Mayor de Blasio is encouraging those who are unvaccinated to vaccinate immediately and reminding New Yorkers that vaccines are safe, saying: 

“The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested . . . the faster everyone heeds the order, the faster we can lift it.”

The mayor is also warning parents that unvaccinated children will not be allowed in schools or day cares. Mayor de Blasio should be applauded for standing firm about the need to vaccinate in the face of this emergency–very good step in containing the disease and stopping its spread.

Yet, more must be done.

As I recommended in this article last month, Mayor de Blasio should also warn New Yorkers that other welfare benefits will be tied to vaccines. The reasoning is simple: If you don’t vaccinate your child, you don’t receive benefits. Mayor de Blasio should also encourage private insurance companies to impose a surcharge on parents who opt out of vaccines for non-medical reasons. Again, the reasoning is simple: If you choose to endanger not only your child but others, you’ll pay since your actions will ultimately cost insurance companies to treat those who have contracted a preventable disease. 

Governors can also do more to help encourage vaccinations. First, 17 states still allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids if they have a “philosophical objection” to vaccines. These states should do away with this “philosophical” exemption immediately.

It’s also time for the federal government to fund state-level vaccination-exemption monitoring programs. As Eli Lehrer of the R Street Institute and I wrote in an opinion article last week, these monitoring programs can help state health officials track irresponsible doctors who offer unnecessary “medical” exemptions to parents who simply ask for them. This would discourage this sort of action from doctors and make it harder for parents to forgo vaccinations. 

New York City will now spend millions of dollars to contain this latest measles outbreak–money that might have been spent on other city problems, like the housing shortage, the rat infestation problems, traffic and congestion, expanding opioid addiction treatment options, or helping the city’s growing homeless population find the assistance they need. 

Sadly, that money will be spent containing the spread of a disease for which we’ve had a vaccine for over 50 years. 

What an enormous waste.