Source AP ©

New Jersey in need of flu shots for preschoolers

The first U.S. state to require flu shots for preschoolers appeared to be New Jersey, as childrens' developing immune systems and likelihood of spreading germs make them as vulnerable to complications as the elderly.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Fred M. Jacobs approved the requirement and three other vaccines for children starting Sept. 1, 2008, over the objections of some parent groups.

The new requirements "will have a direct impact on reducing illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in one of New Jersey's most vulnerable populations - our children," Jacobs said in a statement.

A health advisory board Monday backed the new requirements on a 5-2 vote with one abstention after parents said they worried about the safety of giving young children, usually under age 5, dozens of vaccine doses. Some also say they do not want government making their medical decisions.

Starting in September, all children attending preschool or licensed day care centers will have to get an annual flu shot, Jacobs said. That makes New Jersey the first state to require flu shots for preschoolers or older students, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

New Jersey also will require preschoolers to get a pneumococcal vaccine and sixth-graders, or students of about age 11 or 12, to get vaccines against meningitis, and a booster shot against whooping cough, which in recent years has seen a resurgence blamed on waning potency of shots given to infants and preschoolers.

The four additional vaccines are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups.

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