As Massachusetts grapples with reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic, a new requirement health officials say is important for public safety is drawing the ire of some parents.
Woburn mom Sheila Toomey says her 8-year-old daughter has received a flu shot before, but she doesn't want to be told that's it mandatory.
"I don't think the government should be forcing anything medically for my child to attend public school," said Toomey.
Organizers of a class action lawsuit put forth by a group called "Flu You Baker" are currently gathering signatures from parents who oppose the state's new flu shot requirements.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced in August that all students, as well as kids at least 6 months old who are in day care, must get the flu vaccine before the year's end.
The order allows for several exceptions, including K-12 students in homeschool and higher education students learning entirely remotely. Children and students with religious or medical exemptions are also excluded. K-12 students in schools with remote learning plans, however, are not exempt.
The CDC has said everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every season, with rare exceptions. But health officials note that the pandemic makes it crucial this year.
"It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve healthcare resources," Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Department of Public Health, said in a statement last month.
"I don't believe in government overreach," said Vincent Delaney of "Flu You Baker." "I believe it should be between a parent, their child, and the doctor."
Delaney has filed a separate lawsuit asking the courts to force the state to reopen Massachusetts businesses in full.
"This should be a parental choice because this can become a very slippery slope," said Renee Viens, a mother of two in Tewksbury who has signed onto the potential lawsuit.
"If people are forced to take the vaccine, then what's next? Is it the COVID vaccine that's going to be forced on us?" she said. "I just don't think this is good precedent to set."
More on coronavirus
So far, organizers say they have about 5,000 signatures.
They hope to file the class action lawsuit in the next month.
The office of Gov. Charlie Baker has not commented on the lawsuit effort.