Hundreds gathered at the Massachusetts State House on Sunday to rally against the governor's mandate that students returning to school receive the flu vaccine.
Students at Massachusetts schools from kindergarten up to universities, as well as children at least 6 months old in day care, must get the flu vaccine by the end of the year if they're around others, state health officials announced Wednesday.
Rally organizers say they are not opposed to the vaccine, but that parents should be given the choice.
"We really feel like the decision whether or not to take a flu vaccine should be between the parent, your doctor and your children. Not for the state to mandate," protesting parent Lauren Perry said.
"It is unfair and it’s an overreach," protester Mary Shell added. "It should be left up to the choice of the parent."
Residents from around the state passionately rallied for families to have the right to decide on whether or not children receive flu vaccines this fall, with rally organizers saying on the event's Facebook page that Massachusetts has the highest flu vaccination rate in the country without coercion.
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"You cannot call yourself a free man if you don’t at least have sovereignty to your own body," parent Shang Ko said. "If your body is not under your own control then you are not even close to being free."
Health experts have said that the flu vaccine will help prevent a possible strain on on the health system as they prepare for the resurgence of the flu amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While most Massachusetts students will be required to receive the flu shot, there are exemptions for medical or religious reasons, or for home schooled or remote-only learners.
Parents say Gov. Charlie Baker's mandate goes much too far.
"I don’t think that kids should be denied entry to school because they decide that’s not a risk their parents feel like they should take," Perry said. "So to say, 'no you can’t come to school unless you take this one size fits all medical intervention,' is unfair. It’s discriminatory."
"Why is my body my choice only good for killing babies?," Ko asked.