Should Flu Vaccinations Be Mandatory?

preschool flu vaccination

The vaccination debate is a controversial topic. Some parents feel that the decision whether or not to vaccinate their child is a personal one while others feel that the decision should be mandated by law. It is important to know the school vaccination laws in your state. You can find more information about school vaccination laws here.

In December, a New York State Supreme Court struck down a mandate from the New York City health department requiring children 6 years old or younger to receive an annual flu vaccination in order to attend daycares or preschools.

The judge's ruling was in response to a group of 5 mothers whom filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that the mandate was both unconstitutional and would “irreparably harm” their children since they wouldn’t be able to attend these schools. The mandate was set to go in effect January 1, 2016, and would have levied a maximum $2,000 fine to any daycare/preschool that didn’t certify all their attendees were vaccinated by December 31 of that current flu season.

New York City's health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement “Influenza kills an average of 36,000 people each year in the United States, and the virus is spread easily in child care settings to children and their families. The vaccination requirement will save lives. While we evaluate our legal options to protect New York City children from this severe disease, we strongly recommend that parents vaccinate their children against the flu."

Though the mandate as structured only affected about 2,200 daycares and preschools out of the 11,500 licensed child care centers in New York City, it still would have covered approximately 150,000 children. It was passed through unanimously by the city’s Board of Health in December 2013, as part of the then-outgoing Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to promote public health.

Other states, such as Connecticut, have been very successful in enacting laws requiring flu vaccinations for the preschool population. A 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that flu vaccination rates for children under the age of 6 jumped from 67.8 percent during the 2009–10 influenza season (the year before the mandate went into effect) to 84.1 percent during the 2012–13 season. That corresponded with a 12 percent drop in the influenza-associated hospitalization rate among children aged 4 or younger compared to 2007-08. These improvements are doubly important since preschoolers are considered the most likely group to both spread the flu as well as come down with severe complications from it.

Learn where to find free flu shots here.

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