In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health announced Friday, January 15, that it is abandoning a flu vaccine requirement for students, one it announced just last summer. The mandate had required a flu shot by December each season as a condition of attendance both for K-12 students and for college students.
In the United States, personal autonomy is a big part of our political culture, even where it is the autonomous right to risk one’s own life. For example, although mandatory seat belt laws eventually prevailed, that required a long, hard, state-by-state fight, because it had to overcome a deep sense that, wisdom or foolishness notwithstanding, “The government shouldn’t be ordering me to wear a seatbelt if I don’t want to!”
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The Department of Public Health continues to “strongly recommend” that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal shot every year. The decision to back off a full mandate this year may have been eased somewhat by the fact that winter 2020-21 has so far been a quite mild flu season. If that is part of the rationale, though, one can expect a renewal of the underlying fight again this summer.