Westchester increases Health Department’s power to fight infectious disease

Posted: Updated:

The Westchester County Department of Health now has more power to require vaccinations even when an outbreak hasn't been declared.

Surrounded by health professionals at the county's Health Department clinic in White Plains today, County Executive George Latimer signed legislation that will give the Department of Health more authority to require vaccinations for diseases, such as measles and hepatitis A, even when an outbreak has not been declared.

"It seems to me on an issue like this, you defer to professionals, and you let professionals drive policy," says Latimer.

County lawmakers voted unanimously last week to approve the bill, which strengthens the existing law.

Legislators were prompted to take action following this past summer's measles outbreak in Rockland County.

There were 18 reported cases in Westchester.

The county's health commissioner says the new law makes the department more proactive. "When you have an outbreak, time really does matter. It allows us to us to be proactive and not allow us to wait to fight infectious disease," says Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler.

The new law goes into effect immediately.

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