Mandatory child flu shot during pandemic? NJ lawmakers debate
TRENTON — With growing concerns about a possible spike in the COVID-19 pandemic just as flu season gets underway, legislation was introduced a few weeks ago to make it mandatory for all New Jersey students, from grade school to college, to get an influenza vaccine.
The sponsors of A4576 — Assemblymen Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, and Andrew Zwicker, D-Middlesex — have pushed to have their bill approved quickly so New Jersey students can build immunity before the flu season reaches its peak during the winter months.
In reaction to this proposed measure, A4659 has now been introduced in order to reinforce parental and guardian rights when it comes to students getting a flu shot.
Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, R-Monmouth, said his bill is meant to counter government overreach.
“I feel this is a personal decision,” he said. “This is something that parents should decide for their own children themselves and for their own family.”
He said government officials should not be getting in the middle of these kinds of decisions.
“They shouldn’t be mandating diagnoses, they should not be mandating preventative measures, they shouldn’t be mandating treatments,” said Scharfenberger.
He stressed his legislation is about what the role of government is, not the efficacy of vaccines.
“I had all my children vaccinated. I have been vaccinated over the years, so I am not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch of the imagination. This is not an anti-vaccine bill; this is a pro-personal choice bill."
He said that he's "gotten a lot of encouragement from folks that have contacted my office and asked that I get behind a bill like this.”
He said the role of government should be to present information to the public and “we have tremendous avenues to be able to get this information out. That’s the duty of government, I think, in this case. The decision on what to do with the information is the right of the individual.”
New Jersey law requires children in daycare and preschool to get vaccinated for the flu, but vaccines are not currently required for students in elementary, middle, high school or college.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com