By, Christina Romano (CNN)
The New York City Board of Health unanimously approved a mandate Wednesday requiring all children under 5 enrolled in city-licensed preschools and day cares to receive the flu vaccine.
It is one of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s final health initiatives, which the New York City Department of Health proposed to the Board of Health in September.
“Young children have a high risk of developing severe complications from influenza,” the Health Department said in a statement. “One-third of children under five in New York City do not receive an annual influenza vaccination, even though the vaccine safely and effectively protects them against influenza illness. Young children often pass influenza to other children and family members, who then spread the infection to others in the community.”
The flu vaccine will be added to the seven other vaccines children under 5 are required to get, including measles, whooping cough and chicken pox.
“We know that influenza is a serious illness which affects an estimated 15% to 40% of children during annual flu season,” said Dr. Jay Varma, who oversees infectious diseases as deputy commissioner of the New York City Health Department.
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