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Bill to Require Flu Vaccine Introduced in Albany After City Rule Tossed Out

By Amy Zimmer | December 21, 2015 5:10pm
 Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz introduced legislation to add flu to the list of required vaccines.
Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz introduced legislation to add flu to the list of required vaccines.
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BRONX — Mandating flu vaccines for preschool and daycare-attending children ages 5 and under may get another shot.

After last week’s decision by a Manhattan judge calling the city’s flu vaccine requirement “invalid and unlawful” — because the Health Department initiative had not been voted on by the state legislature — Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz introduced legislation Monday to add the flu to the list of illnesses children attending state-licensed facilities are required to receive.

Under current state law, children are required to receive immunizations for poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, diphtheria, rubella, hepatitis B, Hib, and chicken pox, but not the flu.

“Over 24,000 people a year die from influenza, and those who are most vulnerable are children and the elderly,” Dinowitz said in a statement.

“The Court’s ruling on this matter is unfortunate, as it is putting thousands of children’s lives at risk, however, we must take this opportunity to add influenza to the list of required vaccinations not just for New York City’s school children, but for children across the state.”

Dinowitz has taken a hard line on immunizations previously. Earlier this year, the assemblyman who represents Kingsbridge introduced the toughest immunization law in the country, which would eliminate all non-medical immunization exemptions under state law.

In Connecticut — which along with New Jersey requires children in preschool and daycare to have the flu shot or “flumist” nasal spray — childhood immunization rates rose from 69 percent to 84 percent in two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While some seem to question the science behind immunizations, the fact is that vaccinations are endorsed by the United States Surgeon General, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control as a necessary public health measure to ensure the general health and welfare for everybody,” Dinowitz said.

“It is incredibly important that we make sure that every child who is medically able receives the proper immunizations.”

Before a judge ruled against them, the city's regulations would have meant any child who didn't have proof of vaccination by Dec. 31 could have been kicked out of daycare or preschool until getting the vaccine. Any schools that refused to turn over proof of each student's flu vaccine would be subject to fines as high as $2,000.

Five Manhattan and Brooklyn moms brought suit against the city’s flu shot mandate last month, arguing that the city’s health department overstepped its authority since the requirement wasn’t voted on by the state legislature.

The mothers said that if their children were excluded from day care it would cause financial and other hardships.

When the Bloomberg administration passed the flu requirement, officials emphasized how children are a source of infection for the entire community, often passing the illness to other children and family members.

Children who receive the vaccine are 60 percent less likely to need medical attention for the flu, they noted.