The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Richter, determined the New York City Department of Health exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority when it adopted regulations mandating influenza vaccinations for children attending certain child care, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. The regulations allowed programs to opt-out of the vaccination requirement by paying a fine. The opt-out provision was deemed unrelated to public health, and therefore beyond the Department of Health’s regulatory authority:
… [W]e conclude that by adopting the challenged amendments, the Board of Health “cross[ed] the line into legislative territory” … . [T]he Board of Health did not merely balance costs and benefits, but instead improperly made value judgments by creating a regulatory scheme with exceptions not grounded in promoting public health. … [T]he challenged amendments do not prohibit a child who was not vaccinated against the flu from attending child care or school, but provide only that the facility “may” refuse entry to the unvaccinated child … . Instead, the provider or school can, in effect, opt-out of the vaccination requirement and allow an unvaccinated child to attend, upon payment of a monetary fine … .
This opt-out provision stands in stark contrast to section 2164(7)(a) of the State’s Public Health Law, which, logically, forbids children from remaining in school without proof of the immunizations required under that statute. The challenged amendments, on the other hand, allow a child care provider or school to make an economic choice to pay a fine rather than expel a student and lose a year’s worth of tuition. Creating a policy whereby unvaccinated children are allowed to stay in child care or school flies in the face of respondents’ claim that the challenged amendments are meant to promote the public health by reducing transmission of the flu virus. Not surprisingly, respondents are unable to point to any health-related reason supporting the opt-out provision. Garcia v New York City Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene, 2016 NY Slip Op 06559, 1st Dept 10-6-16
MUNICIPAL LAW (NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH EXCEEDED ITS REGULATORY AUTHORITY WITH RESPECT TO MANDATING INFLUENZA VACCINATIONS FOR CERTAIN PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAMS)/ADMINISTRATIVE LAW (NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH EXCEEDED ITS REGULATORY AUTHORITY WITH RESPECT TO MANDATING INFLUENZA VACCINATIONS FOR CERTAIN PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAMS)/INFLUENZA VACCINATIONS (NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH EXCEEDED ITS REGULATORY AUTHORITY WITH RESPECT TO MANDATING INFLUENZA VACCINATIONS FOR CERTAIN PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAMS)