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Top court backs NYC on flu shot requirement for preschoolers

ALBANY — New York's top court on Thursday upheld a rule requiring New York City preschoolers to get flu shots, rejecting a lawsuit brought by five mothers who objected to the vaccination mandate.

The parents had contended the city Board of Health overstepped its authority in enacting the requirement in 2013 under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And, in fact, two lower courts had agreed.

But the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts in a 7-0 decision and ruled for the city.

“The board’s promulgation of the flu vaccine rules falls squarely within the powers specifically delegated to the [Health] Department in New York City” law, Judge Leslie Stein wrote for the court. “Further, the flu vaccine rules are not pre-empted by state law.”

The lawsuit began in 2015 when Magdalena Garcia and four other mothers sought to block the city’s vaccination requirements, saying the local rules were pre-empted by state law — in part because the State Legislature had not voted on them. Garcia also contended the city board exceeded its authority in implementing the rules.

The lawsuit didn’t challenge the city’s authority on other mandatory vaccinations, including measles and polio. Mayor Bill de Blasio has backed the Bloomberg initiative.

In December 2015, a trial court in Manhattan agreed with Garcia. A midlevel appeals court later ruled there was no state pre-emption, but agreed that the city board “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority.”

The Court of Appeals wiped away those earlier rulings.

The State Legislature delegated “power to regulate vaccines” to the health board on numerous historical occasions, Stein noted.

“The legislature’s specific delegation to the board of authority over vaccinations . . . compels the conclusion that the board’s adoption of the flu vaccine rules fits squarely within its regulatory authority and does not constitute impermissible policymaking,” Stein wrote.

 Neither Garcia’s attorney nor a de Blasio spokesman immediately returned a call to comment.

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