QUINCY, Mass. – Massachusetts public health officials announced Wednesday that the flu vaccine will be required for all students 6 months or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, grade school and colleges or universities.
The new vaccine requirement is an important step to reduce flu-related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts Department of Health says.
“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director for the state’s bureau of infectious disease and laboratory sciences, said in a statement. “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.”
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Students must receive a flu vaccine by Dec. 31 for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless they can provide a medical or religious exemption.
Also exempted are K-12 students who are home-schooled and higher-education students who exclusively attend classes online and never visit campus in person. College students who attend any classes or activities on campus, even once, must be vaccinated by Dec. 31.
Elementary and secondary students in districts and schools using a remote education model are not exempt.
Depending on the child’s age and flu vaccination history, a second dose of flu vaccine in the same season may be recommended, according to the department. In these cases, the second dose is not required for school entry.
For older students, the flu vaccine requirement applies to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students under 30 years of age and all full and part-time health science students. The requirement includes individuals from outside the U.S. attending or visiting classes or educational programs in Massachusetts as part of an academic visitation or exchange program.
The updated table of immunization requirements for the upcoming school year can be found at mass.gov.
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