A judge has blocked a New York City rule that required preschoolers to get flu vaccines.
Judge Manuel Mendez ruled on Thursday that the New York City health department could not require young children to be vaccinated for the flu to attend city-licensed preschools and day care centers, striking down the Bloomberg administrations public health initiative.
He said said the city could not add influenza to the list of diseases requiring immunization without action by the Legislature.
In blocking the 2013 city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene rule, state Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez sided with a group of five Brooklyn mothers who sued NYC last month, arguing that only the state Legislature had the authority to require certain immunizations.
New York Times reports:
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, said the decision would put thousands of children at unnecessary risk.
“I am extremely disappointed by today’s decision,” Dr. Bassett said in a statement. “Influenza kills an average of 24,000 people each year in the United States, and the virus is spread easily in child care settings to children and their families. The vaccination requirement will save lives.”
City health officials said they would appeal the ruling and continue to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against the flu. The requirement would have affected 150,000 children in city-licensed preschools and day care centers.
Aaron Siri, a lawyer for the parents who filed the suit against the city, said the health department had greatly overstepped its authority.
“Parents across the city who, in consultation with their doctors, made the decision that the risks outweighed the benefits for their particular child, had that right taken away from them by 11 unelected individuals sitting in the Board of Health right across the street,” Mr. Siri said at a news conference in Lower Manhattan. “If anybody is going to take away that right, it should be the elected representatives of this state.”
The mandate was passed in the waning days of Michael R. Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor and was scheduled to take effect in January. It required children between the ages of 6 months and 59 months to be vaccinated by shot or mist. Fines for schools that did not follow the rule ranged from $200 to $2,000.
The measure was approved unanimously by the Board of Health and generated little public discussion, overshadowed at the hearing by a proposal to ban large sodas.
But the proposal soon met fierce opposition, with many parents resisting and saying that their doctors told them the vaccine was not needed. Some of the most vocal critics were those who believe vaccinations are linked to autism, although there is no scientific evidence that shots and the disorder are connected.