Mandatory flu shots for students in NY? Health Department considers options
New York health officials are considering requiring flu vaccines for students returning to classrooms in New York, citing concerns about COVID-19.
Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on Thursday said New York may mandate the flu shots, but no final decision has been made.
Massachusetts last month mandated flu shots for all students 6 months or older who are attending child care, pre-school, kindergarten, grade school and colleges or universities in that state.
“We’re looking at all these possibilities to see what we can do,” Zucker said during a media briefing on COVID-19 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked about Massachusetts' plan and deferred to him.
“I think public health information is the first necessary thing to do, but we are looking at that as a possibility."
Meanwhile, Cuomo said he was unaware of the Health Department's review of the issue.
"I hadn’t heard of the possibility of making it mandatory, but Dr. Zucker says it’s something that he’s looking at," Cuomo said.
The comments came as health officials across the country urged people to get flu shots, citing the need to reduce infections of the respiratory disease to focus all medical resources on combating another one, COVID-19.
In Massachusetts, students must receive a flu vaccine by Dec. 31 for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless they can provide a medical or religious exemption, the USA TODAY Network reported.
Also exempted are K-12 students who are home-schooled and higher-education students who exclusively attend classes online and never visit campus in person. College students who attend any classes or activities on campus, even once, must be vaccinated by Dec. 31.
Elementary and secondary students in districts and schools using a remote education model are not exempt.
Anti-vaccine groups have since organized several protests against the flu shot mandate in Massachusetts, according to numerous media reports in that state.
In New York, parents and anti-vaccine groups filed several lawsuits last year opposing New York’s ban on religious exemptions to vaccinations for students, which was ultimately upheld just days before classes resumed.
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