However, the bill allows exemptions on medical conditions or religious grounds—but “a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination” did not qualify as a reason to opt-out. In protest of this proposed bill, hundreds of parents and children gathered Sept. 24 in front of the State House in Trenton.
“To mandate [vaccination] on all children for the public education that they’re constitutionally entitled to seem like a gross violation of our human rights and bodily sovereignty,” protest organizer Stephanie Locricchio said. The founder of the Wellness Warriors Revolution parental group added that giving lawmakers to decide children must get a flu shot is “overreach.”
“The government has no business making medical decisions for our bodies and our children,” protest co-organizer and New Jersey for Medical Freedom founder Ayla Wolf said. She added that the bill requiring flu shots would serve as a precedent to other mandatory vaccines.
Meanwhile, two Republican lawmakers in the State Assembly introduced Sept. 17 a bill forbidding government agencies and schools from requiring flu vaccinations for anyone 18 years old or younger. Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, one of the bill’s authors, said his proposal only prevents the government from deciding on flu vaccinations—an issue parents should be deciding on.
According to the assemblyman, if the government is allowed to mandate vaccinations for seasonal flu, then nothing will stop it from mandating other vaccines—having the same idea as Wolf. He added that his “pro-personal choice” bill would stop the mandatory immunization proposal; if signed into law, Scharfenberger’s bill will supersede the one introduced in August.
State Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. and State Sen. Joseph Vitale, both Democrats, were responsible for the mandatory immunization bill. The proposal introduced by Conaway and Vitale said mandating flu shots will reduce the number of hospitalizations and emergency room visits related to the flu, freeing up hospitals for patients with COVID-19 and other ailments.
The bill’s introduction comes alongside a predicted resurgence of coronavirus cases during the fall. According to Conaway, the bill is targeted to pass before Oct. 1, “so people can build immunity in their systems in advance of flu season.” The state already requires children to attend daycare and preschool to receive flu immunization.
School immunizations have been a contentious topic in N.J. even before the mandatory flu vaccination bill was introduced.
In January of this year, a bill repealing religious grounds for vaccine exemption did not pass due to a lack of support in the State Assembly. Parents in the state only need to write a letter mentioning that the proposed vaccination “interferes with the free exercise of the pupil’s religious rights” in order to be exempted from immunization. (Related: Religious vaccine exemptions explode more than 50 percent in New Jersey.)
A similar case of health freedom infringement in schools was also documented last August in Michigan. Oakland University administrators unveiled a plan to require its student population to wear a “bio-button” to track coronavirus symptoms. A school official touted the device’s ability to make contact tracing on campus easier. However, the plan did not materialize after the student body expressed its disagreement.