Required Flu Vaccines May Be a Good Thing

As a new New York City resident, I was immediately intrigued by a recent Wall Street Journal story that explained that preschools and day-care centers in New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut require children to receive the influenza vaccination. While I don't have kids who would be affected by this, the mandates intrigued me.

In the article, Alexandra Stewart, an associate professor at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, says that school entry requirements is the best way to get children vaccinated—especially since young children are one of the most at-risk groups come flu season.

The CDC recommends that all healthy people over the age of six months receive an annual flu vaccination, and according to Joseph Bresee, the CDC's chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch, last year only 55 percent of children between the ages of five and 18 got one. While the number is higher (70 percent) for children age six months to 4 years, it's still not enough.

So professionals are encouraged to see early evidence suggest that the school entry requirement of vaccination can be effective. According to the article, a Yale School of Public Health study found that immunizations among day-care-age children in the state of Connecticut rose to 84.1 percent after the requirement went into effect, up from 67.8 percent the previous flu season. These mandates also reduce the number of influenza-related hospitalizations. And if children are skittish around needles, this season the CDC recommends the nasal spray vaccination for healthy children age two to eight.

While there is some criticism of the mandates, Henry Bernstein, a professor of pediatrics at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' flu-policy statement, says in the article there is no question mandated flu shots make a difference. While I grew up loathing shots, every year my mom dragged me to the doctors to get the flu vaccination—and I never once got sick with the flu.

Though I sobbed before the shot, whimpered during, and gingerly held my arm the whole day after it was done, I understood the necessity. Even now, the stress my mom put on those annual visits still holds true. Every year, I walk willingly—if somewhat nervously—into the pharmacy for my flu shot.

Twenty-one years of flu shots later, my mom still insists on calling me after to make sure I didn't faint or cry. And no, neither scenario came to pass. Apparently an adolescence of flu shots is all it took for me to get over it.

Tia Mowry, actress and mother of 2-year-old Cree, chats with Parents about the importance of flu prevention for families. Even though the celeb mom doesn't like needles, Mowry shares her secret to keeping her son healthy and flu-free this season.

Image: Girl getting a shot via Shutterstock

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