New York City To Mandate Flu Shots For Preschool Children

This year, New York City will join New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring that children receive flu shots before attending licensed day-cares and preschools. Rhode Island is also expected to implement a similar measure. The New York City law is expected to reach about 150,000 children. Although experts say that similar mandates have definitely had a positive effect on infection rates, some say that large-scale study is "urgently needed" if immunization is becoming a part of public health policy.

As Dr. Oz explained, flu shots matter, and everyone over six months old should get one, unless they have an allergy to one of the vaccines ingredients or Gruillain-Barre syndrome.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends annual flu shots for everyone over 6-months-old. Although the vaccine is not a guarantee that people won't catch the flu -- up to 40 percent of recipients do get the virus -- it's still considered the best protection against the potentially be life-threatening disease.

Still, many people don't get the vaccine. Some decide against it because it's just too much of a bother for something that might not even work, while others are part of a growing community of people who reject vaccines as unsafe.

With flu seasons worsening across the country, New York City will require young children, 6- months to 5-years-old, to receive flu vaccinations to attend preschools and day-care centers. Parents will be expected to get the flu shots on their own, but if cost is a problem, medicaid will pay. The majority of New York City's young children attend preschool, allowing policy makers a chance to get at a sizable population.

As George Washington University Associate Professor Alexandra Stewart explained, "School entry requirements have proven to be the best way to vaccinate children. It's a good way to catch people."

People with medical or religious objections will be exempt from the law.

Studies conducted in Connecticut have shown similar flu shot requirements reduced the flu-related hospitalizations by 12 percent and the percentages of those patients who were children.

Nevertheless, some people are raising concerns about the specifics the mandate. For one, a 2012 meta-analysis concluded that vaccines have no effect on children age six months to two years old, because of their "less robust" immune response. The same report stated that more study was "urgently required" for immunization in public health policy.

With growing hospitalization numbers from worsening flu seasons, health workers are looking for anyway to minimize health risks and costs. Mandated flu shots might become the front line for child prevention.

[Image Credit: Sari Huella/Wikimedia Commons]