An Argument in Favor of Influenza Vaccine Mandates for Young Children

Young girl getting an immunization

In a Viewpoint published in JAMA Pediatrics, Y. Tony Yang, ScD, LLM, MPH makes a case for the value of influenza vaccine mandates for children between six months and five years of age, such as the one now in force in New York City (NYC) for children in city-regulated childcare and educational institutions.

“The 2017-2018 influenza season was a grim reminder of what influenza can do, as well as what this virus can do to children, including the 172 children who died nationwide (four in NYC),” says Yang, who has joint appointments with the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and the School of Nursing. “Approximately 80 percent of these children were not vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

In addition to NYC, the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island have also mandated influenza vaccinations for children, and other states are considering such measures. In their Viewpoint, Yang and his coauthor, James Colgrove, PhD, MPH of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, argue that other states and cities should consider enacting similar mandates. However, they stress that states and municipalities must remain attentive to local political contexts.

The Viewpoint provides additional evidence in support of their argument, including that children younger than five years carry a higher viral load compared to adults and are therefore more likely to carry and spread influenza. They also discuss legal issues and the important role that local boards of public health can play.

“New York City Childcare Influenza Vaccine Mandate” can be accessed here.