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Should flu shots be mandatory?

Registered nurse Donna Morrone prepares a flu shot October 12, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.
Registered nurse Donna Morrone prepares a flu shot October 12, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Flu season has been especially vicious this year, resulting in a prolonged campaign from health care providers for people to get a flu shot. In Rhode Island, a proposed policy from the Department of health would require mandatory flu shots for children aged 6 months to 5 years who wish to enter preschool or daycare.

The usual anti-vaccine lobby is speaking out against the mandatory flu vaccines, but in this case, there’s a twist: the ACLU has joined the ranks of groups fighting the potential law. The ACLU says that a mandatory flu shot would violate parents rights to personal choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC both recommend flu shots for people over 6 and especially for children under 5 -- an especially vulnerable subset of the population.

But the ACLU cites a 47% efficacy rate and the right to personal choice as crucial components in a campaign against mandatory flu shots. The 47% statistic is actually the efficacy for the general population -- children age 6 months to 17 years have a 67% efficacy rate. Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York City have similar mandatory flu vaccine policies.

What is the most moral and medically sound decision in this case? Are the two issues in conflict? Should California implement a mandatory flu shot?


Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., NBC News contributor and Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor and founding head of the Division of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center

Hillary Davis, Policy Associate at the ACLU of Rhode Island