I am a huge Michael Bloomberg fan. I think what he’s done for New York City has been incredible. His gun control policies have made us safer and his limits on smoking areas are preserving the environment (and potential harms of second hand smoke). I am totally on board with his Latch-On program (noting that it is only intended for women who came into the hospital intending to breastfeed) and thought his size limits on soda made perfect sense. But his latest fly-by-night measure rubs me the wrong way.
In his final initiative during his tenure as NYC Mayor, Bloomberg proposed that all children between the ages of six months and five years attending city-licensed preschools and day cares must receive the flu vaccine. His plan was approved by the Board of Health, but it wasn’t without opposition.
“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 John Gilmore, the executive director of the Autism Action Network.
“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.
I’m not an anti-vaxxer and my kids have had all the other vaccines required by the NYC Board of Education, but a mandatory flu shot makes me squirm. The flu vaccine is not the same as the major deadly disease vaccinations like measles or polio. If you completely set aside the link between autism and vaccines (which we know doesn’t exist), the flu shot has actually had legitimate issues. Kids who are allergic to a whole host of things have had issues with various strains of the flu shot, and most recently it has been discovered that a child with a gelatin allergy can suffer anaphylaxis.
Those risks aren’t outweighed by the questionable effectiveness of the vaccination. As recently as last flu season, Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, spoke out against the flu shot:
“We have overpromoted and overhyped this vaccine,” said Dr. Osterholm. “It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”
“I’m an insider,” Dr. Osterholm said. “Until we started this project, I was one of the people out there heavily promoting influenza vaccine use. It was only with this study that I looked and said, ‘What are we doing?’
Specifically, Dr. Osterholm and his team discovered “a recurring error in influenza vaccine studies that led to an exaggeration of the vaccine’s effectiveness.”
Not to mention there is no discussion about who is going to pay for these shots.
Making flu shots available at school? Great. Strongly recommending every child have one? Super. Sending home literature with their children so that parents can make informed decisions? I love it. But mandatory flu shots? I can’t get behind it.