Delivering one last major health regulation before departing office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is set to require all New York City children to get immunized from the flu before being allowed to attend daycare or preschool.
The Board of Health, one of the most activist departments under Bloomberg, is expected to rule in a meeting Wednesday that children as young as six months must get a flu shot in order to be allowed into the group settings.
“Daycare conditions promote the spread of influenza,” the health department said in a statement. “…Young children have a high risk of developing severe complications from influenza.”
The shots are free but the department says that a third of children under five in New York City do not receive an annual influenza vaccine. Exemptions will be allowed for health or religious reasons, but few others will be permitted to opt out.
“Children that have not provided proof that they have received the influenza vaccine by December 31st of each year may be excluded by the childcare service until they provide proof of influenza vaccination,” the board stated.
The statement added that the city will enforce the regulation during the first year of enactment by distributing literature to relevant childcare centers, and subsequently every spring. Centers that do not comply will be issued violations starting in January.
While there were open hearings on the topic, the board is composed of Bloomberg appointees who have not hesitated in the past to approve his initiatives, such as a smoking ban in public areas to banning large sodas and regulating bris milah.
However, a small group of parents who claim that the vaccines are responsible for a rise in autism — a claim widely debunked by health experts — held a vocal rally Tuesday to protest the new flu rule.
John Gilmore, the executive director of the Autism Action Network, said he expects the board to enact the rule, but hopes that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will reverse it once he takes office in January.