The New York City Board of Health has voted unanimously to require all city children in licensed preschools or day-care centers to get the flu vaccine.
The regulation becomes effective next month and will be required for some 150,000 kids. The measure applies to children ages 6 months to almost 5 years, and mandates that kids receive flu shots by Dec. 31 of any year.
To be clear, I am pro-vaccine. I don't understand parents who oppose vaccinating their children against diseases like polio, pertussis, and measles. Why wouldn't they want to protect their children?
But I have never gotten a flu shot. I have a preschool-age daughter, and she has not gotten a flu shot, but has received all standard vaccinations.
I have reservations about the new mandate because the regulation fails to make sure city pharmacies can administer the shot to children. Registered and certified pharmacists in our state can only administer the shot to adults 18 and older.
During last year's flu season, I looked into getting a flu shot for my then 2-year-old, and none of the pharmacies I called in my Inwood neighborhood would give the vaccine to a child. After the health board's vote, I called several pharmacies in my neighborhood and none could administer the flu shot to a child. One representative said pharmacies can't administer the shots to anyone younger than 18.
Perhaps the city should work with the state to temporarily suspend the age-limit rule -- as the state did during the flu spike earlier this year. That would make it easier and less expensive for children to get the vaccination.
Short of that, some parents rely on a visit to the doctor's office. They have to schedule an appointment, most likely take time off from work, and, ironically, risk exposing their children to the flu as sick kids wait to see the pediatrician. These parents then might have to take off more time to care for a now-sick child.
Easing the regulations on pharmacies is just one way city officials can help parents keep children healthy. While they are at it, officials also should ensure that kids go to clean schools, that public housing meets safety standards and that medical care is readily available to everyone.