As the festivities at Times Square ushered in the new year, for young children in New York City, it also signified the start of a new mandate. For the first time in the city’s history, children under five years old will be required to obtain the flu vaccination in order to attend daycare or preschool . Should parents choose not to vaccinate their child, they risk that child excluded from class .
Mandatory vaccination for young children is not novel, as most states and cities have requirements for common immunizations such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, tetanus, and whooping cough . However, mandatory flu vaccination is not as common, with New Jersey being the first state to implement such regulations for children under five and Connecticut following in September 2010 . New York City’s mandate, which was passed in the last days of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, is similar to both states and would affect approximately 150,000 children attending licensed day care centers and preschools across the city . Those enrolled in family day care would not be affected . Additionally, parents can opt their child out of the flu vaccine mandate via medical or religious exemptions .
The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously for this regulation in December 2013, citing in an email statement that, “Young children often pass influenza to other children and family members, who then spread the infection to others in the community. This mandate will help protect the health of young children, while reducing the spread of influenza in New York City.” . This idea of targeted vaccination often lends itself to the phenomenon of herd immunity — in which a certain proportion of the population is immunized against a disease, resulting in most of the population being protected due to the reduction of susceptible persons in which the disease can spread . According to New York City health officials, this effort to vaccinate the youngest of the population would prevent an estimated 20,000 infections in those under five and consequently reduce the spread of influenza for those of all ages .
While this will be the first flu season in which the law has come into effect, it could not have come at a more crucial time . According to the CDC, as of January 10, 2015, there have been 45 influenza related pediatric deaths across the United States thus far this flu season .