Kids Harmed as NY Judge Bans Mandatory Flu Shots

By Gil Ross — Dec 18, 2015
A New York state court judge's ruling, revoking New York City's mandatory flu vaccination for pre-school and young school children, is a counterproductive public health move. Hopefully the state legislature can revise the law to allow the city to require such vaccinations, to protect its youngest kids.

i_love_vaccines_t_shirts-rcc3bcf37b21247b9845621ed86a9e63d_804gy_1024A New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that a recent New York City mandate, requiring a flu vaccination for kids as a condition for attending school or daycare, was invalid.

State Supreme Court Judge Manuel J. Mendez found that NYC's mandatory influenza vaccination requirement for children aged six months through five years who are in, or plan to attend school or daycare, exceeded the city's authority. The measure was enacted in the waning hours of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration in December 2013, and implemented by the city's Board of Health. Judge Mendez ruled that only the New York State Health Department had that authority to pass such a measure.

Last year, the American Council endeavored to persuade the city's Dept. of Health and the Health and Hospitals Corporation to mandate influenza vaccination for the city's public hospital healthcare workers, and our petition was discussed at the highest levels of the municipal administration (as we attended some of those meetings).

Our case was summarized in a Aug. 13, 2014 New York Post op-ed ("Flu Factories"). Sadly, despite all the good will we engendered on the topic, Dr. Nirav Shah, then the state's Health Commissioner, reached the same conclusion as Judge Mendez, advising us to try to convince the state legislature to change the law.

While we must agree that the law is the law, in this case some flexibility would have been the wisest course of action to protect childrens' health (and perhaps save some lives, as the flu kills between 10,000 and 50,000 Americans each year). The parents who brought the lawsuit to prevent the vaccination should be ashamed at their counterproductive success.

On a related vaccination note, a study done by researchers at the Boston College-W.F. Connell School of Nursing in Chestnut Hill, MA, led by Holly B. Fontenot, Ph.D., R.N., assessed the attitudes of 81 parents towards the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Among the focus groups were 43 parents of vaccinated daughters and 38 parents of unvaccinated daughters. It is unfortunate, from a public health perspective, that so much misinformation about HPV vaccine is persistent, and groups like this would likely be helpful in countering such myths. After all, it is really the only vaccine we have against "cancer," since HPV infection is strongly linked to cancers of the cervix, ano-rectum and oro-pharynx.

Parental concerns include mistaken beliefs that the vaccine, indicated for pre-teen and teenage boys and girls, might promote early sexual experimentation, as well as the commonly held anti-vaccine fears. The cost and the need for three shots is also a concern. Far too few young people are taking advantage of the benefits of HPV vaccine, which has been shown to be quite safe.

The study authors' conclusion is here: "Physician recommendation was identified as the most important facilitator of vaccination, with participants wanting providers to exhibit high levels of confidence in and knowledge about HPV vaccines. Last, parents also viewed the prospective idea of a 2-dose HPV9 vaccine as positive."

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