Massachusetts officials announced on Wednesday that all students in the state are now required to get the flu vaccine before Dec. 31 in order to enter school in January of next year. The new mandate makes Massachusetts the first state to require students to receive the flu vaccine to enroll in schools.
"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," a press release from the state's Department of Public Health said.
All students in Massachusetts will be required to receive the flu vaccine unless a medical or religious exemption is provided. Homeschooled K-12 students and students in higher education who are engaged in remote learning and completely off-campus are also exempted from the mandate.
"Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, Medical Director at the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. "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."
As students in Massachusetts line up for the flu shot, researchers are racing to find an effective vaccine against the Wuhan coronavirus. Under operation warp speed, a hybrid partnership between the private and public sectors, scientists are working to accelerate development of COVID-19 therapeutics.