As government and health professionals continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, Massachusetts has dropped its requirement that all children ages six months and up receive a flu vaccine if they will be attending daycare or school. Many parents protested the requirement, insisting that the final decision regarding their child’s welfare should be up to a child’s parent, not the state.
Amid fears that a difficult flu season could overlap with COVID-19, causing a crisis, Massachusetts instituted a requirement that all children who would be attending school or daycare receive the flu vaccine, although it did allow for religious and medical exemptions. After a mild flu season, though, the state decided to lift the requirement, which was protested by some parents.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a statement saying,
“Preliminary data show that this has been a mild flu season to date, presumably as people have received their seasonal flu vaccine and have been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19. Given the intensive Commonwealth-wide efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccination, DPH wants to alleviate the burden to obtain flu vaccination and focus on continuing our COVID-19 vaccination efforts.”
The state claimed that it feared the overlap of COVID-19 and the flu would overwhelm hospitals. The DPH does “strongly recommend” that children ages six months and up receive the vaccine. Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett, program director of Boston Medical Center’s Department of Family Medicine, called the mild flu season “perhaps one of the silver linings of what is happening now with the pandemic.”
She was concerned, however, that it could result in a harsher flu season next year and that “because we have not been exposed to them as much this year, they may take their toll next year.”
In August, parents protested the flu vaccine requirement. Protestors carried signs saying, “My child, my choice” and “Bodily autonomy is a human right.” Some protestors did not want to be labeled as “anti-vaccine” but did not think the vaccine should be mandated. Taryn Proulx said the state “backed us into a corner.” “I think parents are vulnerable right now,” she said. “We feel like we have to just comply or rearrange our whole lives and homeschool our children.”
Recently, the District of Columbia passed a law allowing children to be vaccinated, not only without parental consent but without even knowledge of the vaccination. If a child agrees to get the vaccine, the law requires insurance companies to hide that immunization record from parents.
The reversal of the mandate in Massachusetts is an interesting development in an era when governments are pushing for more control, particularly regarding vaccinations. This decision allows parents and children to choose whether or not to receive the flu vaccine — as it should be. Children are a gift from God, and no one loves a child or understands their unique needs more or better than their parents. In a free society, parents have both the responsibility and the right to provide for their child’s welfare and emotional and physical well-being. Government needs to trust them to do just that.