In a bold but otherwise hotly contested move, New York City is now requiring parents with children attending preschool or day care to receive a flu shot.
Despite opposition from hundreds of thousands of city residents, the New York City Board of Health voted this week to uphold New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to make vaccinations for children under the age of six mandatory in order to enter into early public education. The board says a mandatory vaccine – which is expected to impact roughly 150,000 children – could save lives and prevent as many as 20,000 children from getting influenza this coming flu season.
At the risk of sounding like an anti-health, scientifically challenged child hater, I can't help but see this as a huge misstep for the New York City government. Whereas I used to believe the flu shot was the most promising way to eradicate the influenza virus, I've changed my opinion in recent years. I guess it became too difficult to argue the effectiveness of a vaccination when there are so many different strands of the virus that evolve year after year. Not to mention, the substances used to make even the most basic flu shot are enough to question whether getting the flu is any less dangerous than the vaccine to prevent it.
It's also worth noting the flu shot requirement comes only days after the Food and Drug Administration warned of the potentially harmful affects of antibacterial soaps containing triclosan and triclocarban, chemicals the FDA says could be linked to hormonal problems, including infertility and early puberty. Apparently, we should be adequately warned of the potentially harmful substances that come from a pump bottle on the bathroom sink but substances injected directly into the blood stream as part of the flu shot... well, we're simply not to question it.
Of course, as with anything in the medical wold, there's also the ever so shady connection between pharmaceutical companies and the “proven effectiveness” of becoming vaccinated. If the 2012-2013 flu shot barely topped 62 percent effectiveness (as reported by the Center for Disease Control), who really stood to benefit from the 39.9 percent of children in the US that received an early vaccination in 2012? It certainly wasn't the roughly 14 percent of children who got a flu shot and were still exposed to the flu virus. And the timing of the flu shot requirement – at the same time the federal government is pushing for universal pre-K – can't be a mere coincidence, either. If it's mandatory that children attend pre-K and also mandatory that they receive a flu shot to do it, someone will walk away with a pocket full of cash. I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, everything goes back to money.
But money an any other “nut case” anti-flu shot arguments aside, I think the biggest red flag from New York's newly adopted flu shot requirement is its impediment on parental rights. It should, beyond any doubt in my mind, be the parent's choice to vaccinate their child, not the government's. The fact the New York City Board mandates children to become vaccinated to enter a public school is reminiscent of “1984,” (you know, the book most of us were supposed to read in high school but didn't come to appreciate until adulthood). If you don't recall, there’s a scene when Winston is forced to participate in a morning daily workout routine while being monitored. With the Affordable Healthcare Act mandate to purchase health insurance, and now a twisted arm for millions of families to become vaccinated, the thought doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it used to.
For me, it all comes down to a matter personal choice. No one should feel coerced into getting themselves or their children vaccinated. These vaccines aren't something to be taken lightly or mandated, and no body of government should say otherwise.