By Erik Goldman, Editor in Chief
A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that New York City's health department does not have the legal authority to add flu vaccines to the list of mandatory shots required for young children to enter city-licensed preschools and day care centers.
According to Justice Manuel Mendez, any changes to the roster of the city's required shots--which currently includes polio, mumps, measles, rubella, varicella, Haemophilus influenza B, pertussis, tetanus, pneumococcal diseases, meningitis, and hepatitis B--must be mandated by the New York State legislature, not the city's board of health.
The flu vaccine mandate was a parting shot from the administration of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and was set to take effect on January 1, 2016. But the legality of the requirement was challenged by a lawsuit filed by parents concerned about the potential risks. Also at issue in the case is the fact that the city's health board is appointed, not elected, and therefore may not represent the views of the city's citizens.
In his ruling, Judge Mendez stuck closely to the matter of the Board of Health's legal authority to change vaccine policy; he assiduously avoided issues related to the merits or risks of the flu vaccine, the legality of vaccine mandates in general, or any of the other contentious issues about vaccines.
Essentially, Mendez' decision merely bounces the matter upstairs to the state legislature in Albany.
Still, vaccine opponents are hailing it as a significant victory for parental freedom of choice. City health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, is disappointed. She holds that the mandate could have prevented many cases of childhood as well as adult flu, and potentially saved lives.