Starting December 31st , children in all city regulated preschools and child care centers who are between the ages of 6 months and 5 years will be required to get the flu vaccine. The children must receive at least one dose of the influenza vaccine between July 1st and December 31st, and proof of immunization must be submitted to their school or child care center.
The New York City Health Department stated this new requirement was in response to the increased risk for children in group settings to catch or spread the flu. The flu is highly contagious, and young children are at especially high risk of developing flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. Last year, the CDC reported over 100 pediatric deaths due to influenza complications nationwide. This flu season, already seven pediatric deaths have been reported due to flu complications. Dr. Jane Zucker of the NYC Department of Health stated, Unfortunately some of these children die from influenza, that s why we have this requirement.
Of course, anti-vaccine parents are attempting to fight this new rule. Many of them believe that the risk of the flu shot outweighs the benefit. However, the risk of a flu shot causing any severe adverse effects is extremely small, and most fears relating to the flu shot are simply myths. The flu is now widespread in New York State as of December 6th. Even though this year s flu vaccine may not be a good match with this season s most common strain, influenza A (H3N2), it is sill protective against the strains it contains and may reduce risks of hospitalizations and deaths as a result of the flu. There is no downside to receiving the flu vaccine.
ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross adds, This is an important requirement because young children are at especially high risk of developing complications from the flu. Moreover, the little ones who get sick or even become asymptomatic carriers often spread the virus to their parents and grandparents, who may become quite ill. Maybe this new requirement will prompt the authorities running our city s public hospital system, including the Health and Hospitals Corp. and the New York State Dept. of Health, to finally require healthcare workers to get the vaccination in order to protect both themselves and the patients with whom they come into contact. This mandate is long overdue, especially since flu vaccination rates among this group are unacceptably low.
As Dr. Ross pointed out in an op-ed published in the New York Post earlier this year, It s outrageous for [New York] City s health-care system to so needlessly put the sick and vulnerable at further risk. Seasonal influenza is highly communicable and potentially lethal. Vaccinating health-care personnel against it to protect both patients and workers should be a no-brainer.