Massachusetts Requires Flu Shots For Most Students

Massachusetts reported 4 influenza related fatalities last flu season
school children in a classroom
(Precision Vaccinations)

Massachusetts State public health officials announced that influenza immunization will be required for all children 6 months of age or older who are attending child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities. 

This new vaccine requirement published on August 19, 2020, ‘is an important step to reduce flu-related illness and ​the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 disease pandemic’ said the press release.

“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, Medical Director, DPH’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, in a press statement.

Last flu season, there were 4 confirmed pediatric (individuals under the age of 18) flu-related fatalities reported in Massachusetts. 

And, throughout the USA, there were 187 pediatric fatalities related to the 2019-2020 flu season reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additionally, this announcement said Massachusetts students will be expected to have received a flu vaccine by December 31, 2020, for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless either a medical or religious exemption is provided. Also exempted are K-12 students who are homeschooled and higher education students who are completely off-campus and engaged in remote learning only. 

However, elementary and secondary students in districts and schools that are using a remote education model are not exempt.

“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,” added Dr. Madoff.

This new flu immunization requirement to enter school in January is in addition to existing vaccine requirements for all those attending child care, preschool, K-12, and colleges and universities in Massachusetts. All children at least 6 months old who attend child care or preschool must be immunized in accordance with the ACIP Recommended Immunization Schedule.

All students in K-12 must receive the seasonal influenza vaccine annually by December 31. New students entering between January 1 and March 31st must have received a dose of flu vaccine for the current flu season, before entry. 

Depending on the child’s age and flu vaccination history, a 2nd dose of flu vaccine in the same season may be recommended.

As of August 18, 2020, the CDC says some children 6 months through 8 years of age require 2 doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from influenza. The child’s healthcare provider can tell if a child needs 2-doses.

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 USA attending or visiting classes or educational programs in Massachusetts as part of an academic visitation or exchange program. College students who attend any classes or activities on campus, even once, must be vaccinated by December 31st.

The only exception is for college and university students who exclusively attend classes online and never visit campus in person. 

The updated table of immunization requirements for the upcoming Massachusetts school year can be found here

The CDC recognizes that school administrators, teachers, staff, and parents are concerned about influenza viruses, particularly its effects on children. Educators and staff can help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like colds, enterovirus D68, and influenza says the CDC.

The CDC suggests most people receive a flu shot during the early Fall each year.

The CDC has been working with researchers at universities and hospitals since the 2003-2004 flu season to estimate how well the flu vaccine works through observational studies using laboratory-confirmed flu as the outcome.

The overall, adjusted vaccine effectiveness estimates for influenza seasons from 2004-2018 are noted in this CDC chart

For the 2019-2020 flu season in the USA, the CDC’s July 1, 2020 estimates indicate influenza vaccines were about 39 percent effective.

There are several types of flu shots available at most pharmacies and clinics.

PrecisionVaccinations publishes research-based influenza vaccine news.