Story at a glance
- Massachusetts looks to prevent dueling outbreaks by requiring all students to get a flu shot.
- This will apply to students learning remotely.
Massachusetts will require its students aged 6 months or older to receive an influenza vaccination for the upcoming fall season as the state, along with the nation, readies itself for both coronavirus and flu outbreaks.
On Wednesday, the state department of health issued an announcement mandating the vaccine for children attending any Massachusetts child care, preschool, kindergarten, K-12 and colleges and universities. The deadline to get vaccinated is Dec. 31 for K-12 students. Immunization is required to enter school in January, in addition to existing vaccine requirements.
Elementary and secondary school students engaging in remote learning are not exempt. Homeschooled children and higher education students who remain off campus are exempt from the new requirements.
Exemptions based on religious and medical reasons will be granted.
“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” said Larry Madoff, the medical director at the Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, in the press 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.”
This mandate echoes the concerns of public health officials regarding the coming months. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned that the U.S. could experience its “worst fall” from a public health perspective.
"We're going to have COVID in the fall, we're going to have flu in the fall," he said, clarifying that those infected with severe influenza illnesses will take up resources COVID-19 patients may need, causing further strain on the health care systems.
To ensure Americans have ample access to a vaccine, the CDC purchased an extra 10 million doses of the flu vaccine, well above the normal 500,000.
Massachusetts has a total of 115,048 confirmed cases, with 262 new cases reported on Wednesday.