- Massachusetts health officials said on Wednesday that all students 6 months old and over must receive a flu shot vaccination by December 31.
- The mandate does not apply to students who are homeschooled or university students who are not attending in-person classes due to the coronavirus.
- The order comes as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread in the US and is an attempt to contain the spread of respiratory diseases.
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Parents and guardians in Massachusetts are required to get a flu shot for all children 6 months old and over, the state’s Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.
The mandate specifically targets parents whose children attend or will attend child-care services, pre-school, kindergarten, or primary and secondary levels of education. The Department of Public Health said it’s an attempt to “reduce flu-related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The mandate comes as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread nationwide, with more than 5.5 million confirmed cases in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 173,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker indicated last week that most of the state, which has seen a decline in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, is in a good position to reopen its schools for in-person learning this fall.
“I can’t imagine a good reason not to go back, whether it’s full-time or in some sort of a hybrid, because, for all intents and purposes, you meet all of the benchmarks that are being used across the country and across New England to make decisions about whether it’s safe to go back to school,” Baker said at a press conference.
A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Health did not immediately return a request for comment.
All students must receive the vaccine by December 31, state health officials said.
The mandate specifies that some children, such as homeschooled kids and university students who do not have on-campus classes, can be exempt. Also exempt are children whose parents present a valid medical or religious reason.
By enforcing a flu vaccine, health officials hope to lessen the spread and limit the exacerbation of respiratory diseases and protect public safety.
“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the agency’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, told Boston25News.
“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,” Madoff added.
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