On August 25, 2020, New Jersey assemblymen Conaway, Zwicker and Jasey introduced introduced A4576, a bill that creates a new immunization requirement for all students in the state of New Jersey, including adult students. The bill would force all K-12 students as well as those in institutions of higher learning to get an annual flu shot in order to get a public or private education in New Jersey. This requirement would go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year, with a compliance deadline of December 31, 2020.
Currently, New Jersey requires children 6 months of age to 59 months of age to receive an annual flu shot to attend daycare or preschool. If A4576 is passed into law, students of all ages will be required to get an annual flu shot to be eligible to receive an education in New Jersey. This bill will effectively add a yearly immunization requirement to the list of mandated vaccines for ALL students age 5 and older. Even students who are in full compliance with all other state vaccination requirements will not be able to attend school.
The bill’s sponsors say the flu shot mandate is needed because “flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19, and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve healthcare resources.” However, the proposed legislation leaves New Jerseyans with questions:
- Do the existing tests for the flu and COVID-19 prevent healthcare professionals from being able to reliably differentiate between the two viruses?
- Is there proof to back up legislators’ claims: that administered annually, the flu shot will actually “lessen the severity of illness to individuals by preventing concurrent influenza and COVID-19 cases?”
- Is an indefinite annual flu shot mandate an appropriate response to a temporary state of emergency from COVID-19?
- A January 2020 study in Science Direct shows that flu shots actually increase the risk of coronavirus infection by 36%, a phenomenon known as virus interference. If public officials want to curb the spread of coronavirus, why would they mandate the flu shot?
- Who will be responsible for ensuring that all New Jersey students are in compliance with the new flu shot mandate?
If A4576 passes, ALL students — those in Kindergarten through 12th grade, higher education students and remote learners — will be required to comply with the new influenza mandate. The bill effectively applies to all schools at all age levels, public or private. No schools are exempt. As such, families choosing a “virtual learning” option for the 2020-2021 school year would be required to visit a doctor’s office, urgent care center or pharmacy to give their children a flu shot in order to comply with this mandate.
Under A4576, “school principals, directors, or executive director/administrator, or other person in charge of a preschool/childcare/institution of higher education or other person in charge of a public or private school in this State will be prohibited from knowingly admitting or retaining in grades K through 12 a child whose parent or guardian has not submitted acceptable evidence, by December 31 of the relevant school year, showing that the child has received an annual vaccination for influenza.”
This leaves many wondering whether schools, which are already considerably overburdened, will incur additional expenditures and logistical and administrative burdens to monitor and enforce the new mandate. It also begs the question, will school nurses no longer oversee this function?
This bill would require, “A written statement submitted, explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student or the student’s parent or guardian, as the case may be.”
This changes the existing requirement for the religious exemption. Presently, a parent/guardian is only required to submit a note referencing the New Jersey statute stating that his/her child is exempt from school vaccination mandates due to religious beliefs. Individuals are not required to explain their religious tenets; however, the language in A4576 would force them to.
Moreover, legislators have not clarified whether families would be required to submit two separate notes on file — one for all existing mandatory vaccinations and a second for the annual flu shot.
Under the new law, medical exemptions for flu shots would only be granted if there was a previous “life-threatening” reaction to a flu shot. Children who are at increased risk for serious adverse reactions or who have previously experienced serious adverse reactions (including seizures, high-grade fever, angioedema, urticaria, syncope and Guillain-Barre syndrome) would not be exempted under A4576. How will the state ensure the safety of these children?
Bill A4576 does not guarantee better health outcomes, puts vulnerable children at risk, violates individuals’ religious rights, and creates costly administrative burdens. With one click, you can send a pre-drafted, customizable email to members of the New Jersey Assembly Health Committee and your local legislators. Please ask them to oppose and immediately halt Bill A4576 mandating the flu shot for all New Jersey students!