VACCINE MANDATES INCOMING: Massachusetts requires students to take flu vaccines to attend class

Friday, August 21, 2020
By Paul Martin

by: Arsenio Toledo
Friday, August 21, 2020

In an effort to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), public health officials in Massachusetts have decided to mandate flu vaccines for any children, teenagers and young adults who want to attend child care, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, college and universities in the state. The rule was announced on Wednesday, August 19, and it applies to children as young as six months.

“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,” said the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) in a statement.

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

Students need to be vaccinated by year-end

While students will still be allowed to attend classes for the time being even if they have not gotten the latest flu vaccine, the new mandate states that they need to get vaccinated by December 31 of this year in order to finish the rest of the academic year. Any other vaccine requirements mandated locally still apply.

Furthermore, students in districts that are holding all of their classes online through remote or distance learning models will not be exempted from the vaccine mandate.

The flu vaccine requirement also applies to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students who are under 30, as well as all full- and part-time students in health sciences courses. International students attending classes and programs in the state will also need to get the flu vaccine.

K-12 students who are homeschooled will be exempted, along with college, university and other higher education students who will “exclusively attend classes online and never visit campus in person.” For everyone who does not fit into either category, only medical and religious exemptions will be considered.

In the case of a medical exemption, the student must receive a document from a licensed physician detailing why the person cannot medically receive the flu vaccine. Religious exemptions must come from the student’s parent or guardian, and it must clearly state that taking the vaccine conflicts with a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

According to the statement, doctors may recommend a second dose of the flu vaccine “depending on the child’s age and flu vaccination history,” but this second dose will not be mandatory.

Several states have already put in place certain flu vaccine requirements, such as for children attending daycare and preschool. All states already have mandates for public school students to have certain childhood vaccines. However, Massachusetts is the first state to require a flu vaccine for all of its students, including those attending college.

Vaccine mandate already stirring up controversy among people in Massachusetts


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