Massachusetts students of all ages will now be required to get a flu vaccine by Dec. 31 in order to attend school unless medically or religiously exempt, the Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, director of DPH’s Bureau of Infectious Disease.

“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,” said Madoff in a statement.

Influenza immunization will be required for all children six months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12 and colleges and universities, according to DPH.

The new vaccine requirement is a step to reduce flu-related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students will be expected to have received a flu vaccine by Dec. 31, 2020 for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless either a medical or religious exemption is provided, per the new rule.

Also exempted from the requirement are K-12 students who are homeschooled and higher education students who are completely off-campus and engaged in remote learning only.

Elementary and secondary students in districts and schools that are using a remote education model are not exempt, according to DPH.

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.


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