New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will hand the city’s leadership to Bill de Blasio in three weeks, is making a last-minute push that, if successful, will force all children who attend public schools or licensed daycares to get annual flu vaccinations – regardless of their parents’ possible objections.
The New York City Board of Health will vote today whether to implement rules that compel school-age children, as well as infants six months old and older who attend licensed day cares, to receive flu immunizations every year. The Board of Health is stocked with Bloomberg appointees with a history of green-lighting the mayor’s other public health initiatives like big soda bans and new smoking regulations.
The Autism Action Network (AAN), a Nationwide advocacy group for autistic people of all ages, plans to protest the vote today. AAN Executive Director John Gilmore told the New York Observer the organization doesn’t simply oppose the mandate because of any belief in a connection between vaccinations and the onset of autism, but rather because it places in the state’s hands a decision fraught with costs and benefits that parents, more properly, should make.
“The Bloomberg administration is wildly exaggerating the benefit of the flu shot and we think they are wildly underestimating the risks involved with it,” said…Gilmore.
…“There are risks associated with every medical procedure,” he said, citing allergic reactions, toxic mercury used as a preservative and questions as to whether the Board’s move is legal given state government jurisdictions.
Although the proposal did get a public hearing two months ago, Gilmore criticized Bloomberg’s 11th-hour strategy for getting the flu vaccine mandate approved, and portrayed today’s protest as a warning shot Mayor-elect de Blasio should heed before embracing the public health policies of his predecessor.
“This is basically to put the mayor-elect [on alert], make him aware that this is an issue that he’s going to have to deal with it. It’s not going to go away,” Gilmore told the Observer. “He is kind of doing this in a stealth fashion. He just proposed this about 6 weeks ago. I don’t think there was any announcement.”