TRENTON — Two Democratic assemblymen have introduced legislation that would require children attending public and private schools, childcare centers and colleges to receive a flu shot as a condition of enrollment.

Assembly bill 4576, sponsored by Herb Conaway and Andrew Zwicker, is a proactive step against the "twindemic" threat of the regular flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the lawmakers said. The legislation would take effect for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

Exceptions would be granted for medical reasons or "bona fide religious tenets or practices of the student or the student’s parent or guardian."

The bill also states that "a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination shall not be sufficient for an exemption on religious grounds."

The proposal is sure to spark debate as seen last year when lawmakers attempted to strip away religious exemptions from childhood vaccinations.

The bill was introduced on Tuesday and referred to the Assembly Health Committee for a hearing.

Both the flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms of fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, sudden loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, making it difficult to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Conaway, who is the only doctor in the Legislature, and Zwicker, a scientist, say the vaccination of children and students would reduce the cases of experiencing a combination of flu and COVID-19 symptoms and help reduce competition among flu and COVID-19 patients for medical resources.

"It will result in fewer emergency department visits and hospitalizations related to influenza, thereby enabling the state to preserve its hospital capacity and emergency and intensive care resources for patients who are infected with COVID-19 or other severe diseases and ailments," the legislation states.

Conaway was a strong supporter of legislation that failed in December that would have ended religious exemption for mandatory vaccination rules.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

Enter your number to get our free mobile app