I teach preschool and elementary school. If you have ever worked with small children, you know these places are germ factories! The school year seems made up of one cold or flu virus after another, no matter how many times you wash your hands.
The state of New Jersey has decided to combat the problem by mandating flu vaccines for children in preschool and licensed child-care centers, but is this a good idea?
I have never had a flu vaccine, and neither have my children. In fact, I question the effectiveness and safety of the flu shot, even though thimersol is not used in toddler flu vaccines. As a parent, I have chosen an alternative vaccine schedule and opted out of most of them, so such state mandates upset me as I feel they infringe on my personal choice as a parent. Some may argue that personal choices do not usurp public health, but parents in New Jersey have voiced intense opposition. Louise Habakus, an organizer of a rally protesting the flu shot requirement, explained, “This is not an anti-vaccine rally — it’s a freedom of choice rally. This one-size-fits-all approach is really very anti-American.”
New Jersey is the first state to require such a flu shot mandate; however, it appears parents would still be able to opt out as a “conscientious exemption”.
In my experience as both an educator and a parent in a state that does allow for conscientious exemptions to vaccines, parents are often not given this information. They are told that the schools have vaccine requirements, but alternatives are not discussed. Parents are not informed of their options in an effort to maintain public health. Instead of omitting this information, schools should educate parents as to the public health benefits of vaccinations while respecting their right to make informed decisions for their families.