The New York City Board of Health passed a mandate Wednesday requiring children who attend preschool or day care to receive the flu vaccine.
Children from six months to five years old who attend daycare or preschool will now have to get the vaccination annually before December 31 in preparation for the flu season that begins the following July. The regulation will apply to about 150,000 children in the city.
Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control, said like other required immunizations, parents could opt out on religious grounds or, in rare cases, if the vaccine is considered by a doctor to be medically harmful. However, parents can't opt out for philosophical reasons — that is, if they are opposed to vaccinations.
“Vaccination requirements are one area in which the health and benefit of the community trumps individual civil liberties when it comes to attendance at schools or other congregate settings in which there is a high risk of complications,” Varma said.
Varma said young children are very vulnerable to the flu and they are the major source of transmission within communities, especially in closed environments like classrooms and day care centers. Home-based care programs are exempt from the requirement.
In the 2012-2013 flu season, 167 children under the age of five nationwide contracted the flu and died, including four in New York City.
Children attending daycare centers and preschools are also required to receive immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, pneumococcal disease and haemophilus influenzae type b.