New York – Hoping to counter misinformation about vaccination rates in the Chasidic community, a Rockland County based public affairs group has taken out a Times Square billboard assuring passersby that nearly all Chasidim immunize their children and asking them if they do as well.
The billboard, located above the marquee at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, is short and to the point, stating simply “96% Hasidim Vaccinate. Do You?” The public service announcement was created by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council which goes by the acronym OJPAC.
The eye-cathcing message went up Tuesday morning, with a two pronged purpose, explained OJPAC’s Yossi Gestetner.
“In recent weeks we have had firsthand reports of people being berated, criticized and asked questions in very uncomfortable ways regarding vaccinations and diseases,” Gestetner told VIN News. “We are looking to get the message across that vaccination rates are very high in the Chasidic community and also to bring attention to the fact that there are many anti-vaxxers outside the Chasidic community.”
Gestetner said that the 96 percent statistic comes from media reports.
According to an opinion piece that appeared in the Daily News (http://bit.ly/30BkyTW) last week, the New York State Department of Health reported a 96 percent vaccination rate at 200 Jewish schools, most of which are located in Borough Park and Williamsburg.
That number surpasses the 90 percent vaccination rate among other New York State private schools. A statement released by Agudath Israel of America on April 10th also quotes the 96 percent statistic, a number that it said comes from “governmental records” and encompasses yeshivas all across New York.
The billboard will remain in place for one week. Gestetner declined to say how much it cost to place OJPAC’s message in the prime location that is often referred to as “the crossroads of the world”, acceding only that it costs “thousands.” He hopes that additional donations will allow him to post another in Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and a third on Route 17 heading toward the Catskills where thousands of Chasidic summer residents summer each year.
Feedback so far has been very positive, noted Gestetner.
“People in the Orthodox community, and even more so in the Chasidic community, feel like they are under siege,” said Gestetner. “They have had people running away from them, crazy stories. This is pushing back, in a simplified way.”