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Mandatory flu vaccine deadline for Massachusetts students extended

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While it is still mandatory for most students in Massachusetts to receive the flu vaccine, the deadline has been changed.

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

Students were 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, however, the deadline was extended on Tuesday. Exempted are K-12 students who are homeschooled and higher education students who are completely off-campus and engaged in remote learning only.

Now, students must receive the influenza vaccine for the current season (i.e., school year 2020-2021) by February 28, 2021. New students entering school before March 31, 2021 must have received a dose of vaccine for the current flu season for entry.

“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. “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.”

All children at least 6 months old who attend child care or preschool must be immunized in accordance with the ACIP Recommended Immunization Schedule.

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 U.S. attending or visiting classes or educational programs in Massachusetts as part of an academic visitation or exchange program. The only exception is for college and university students who exclusively attend classes online and never visit campus in person. College students who attend any classes or activities on campus, even once, must be vaccinated by December 31.

Starting in the 2020-21 school year, all students entering Grades 7 and 11 will also need meningococcal conjugate vaccine, MenACWY (brand names Menveo or Menactra) for school entry.

Grade 7 entry: 1 dose of MenACWY for all students.
Grade 11 entry: 1 booster dose of MenACWY received on or after 16 years of age. (1 or more doses of MenACWY are acceptable as long as 1 dose was received on or after 16 years of age.)

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