Students in Massachusetts are now required to get the flu shot before they can return to the classroom, the state’s Department of Public Health announcedThursday

Children and students 6 months or older who will be attending childcare, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, colleges, and universities will be required to get the flu vaccine. The agency called it an “important step to reduce flu-related illnesses and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Students will need to have the flu vaccine by Dec. 31 for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless they have a medical or religious exemption. K-12 children who are homeschooled are exempt from the requirement along with those college and university students who are completely off-campus and using remote learning.

Older students who are full-time undergraduate and graduate students under 30 years of age are required to get a flu inoculation as well as all full- and part-time health science students. The requirement also includes students from outside the U.S. attending or visiting classes in Massachusetts as part of an academic or exchange program.

College students who will attend on-campus classes or activities, even just once, also will have to be vaccinated by the December deadline.

The Department of Public Health also said the flu shot requirement is in addition to existing vaccine requirements in the state with no exemption for elementary and secondary students that are using remote learning.

“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director at the Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said 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.”

flu shot helps protect against cardiac arrest
flu shot helps protect against cardiac arrest LuAnn Hunt - Pixabay