Flu Shot/Influenza Vaccine

Influenza Vaccine Requirement for School Attendance: Kindergarten through Grade 12

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has indicated that beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, influenza vaccine will be required for all students.  Influenza vaccine is always important to receive to reduce the risk of getting sick with influenza, reduce the severity of disease if one does get sick (including the risk of hospitalization) due to influenza, as well as preventing the spread of influenza to others.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza vaccine will be especially critical to reduce the overall impact of respiratory illness on the population, protect vulnerable populations from severe illness, and decrease the overall burden on the healthcare system.

Why should my child get the influenza vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu (influenza) vaccine for all children 6 months and older.  This year the CDC recommends the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine.  A flu vaccine offers the best defense against flu and its potentially serious consequences and can also reduce the spread of flu to others. Getting vaccinated has been shown to reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed work and school days, and reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death in children.

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Which students need to receive the influenza vaccine?

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, all students in Kindergarten – Grade 12 will be required to receive influenza vaccine by December 31, 2020 for the current influenza season.  This state requirement is for all students whether they are remote or in-person learners.

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When do students need to receive the influenza vaccine?

According to the Department of Public Health, students must receive influenza vaccine for the current season by December 31, 2020.

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Is it possible for my child to get the flu from the influenza vaccine (flu shot)?

No, the flu vaccine can’t give your child the flu.

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Are there any exemptions to receiving influenza vaccine?

Medical and religious exemptions are allowable in the state of Massachusetts.  According to Massachusetts’ General Laws c.76 § 15, a child shall be admitted to school upon certification by a physician that they have personally examined the child and that in their opinion the physical condition of the child is such that the child’s health would be endangered by such vaccination or by any of such immunizations. Such certification shall be submitted at the beginning of each school year to the child’s school nurse and reviewed by the physician in charge of the school health program. If the physician in charge of the school health program does not agree with the opinion of the child’s physician, the matter shall be referred to the department of public health, whose decision will be final.  In the absence of an emergency or epidemic of disease declared by the department of public health, no child whose parent or guardian states in writing that vaccination or immunization conflicts with his sincere religious beliefs shall be required to present said physician’s certificate in order to be admitted to school.

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What type of influenza vaccine can students receive?

Any age-appropriate licensed influenza vaccine for the current season fulfills the requirement.  This includes injectable and nasal spray vaccine types.

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What about students who enroll after December 31, 2020?

According to the Department of Public Health, newly enrolling students between January 1 and March 31 must have a documented dose of influenza vaccine for the current influenza season (along with all other required vaccinations) when they start school.   This state requirement is for all students whether they are remote or in-person learners.

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What about students who enroll later in the spring?

Students enrolling after March 31 are not required to have a dose of influenza vaccine for the current school year.

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Do younger students require 2 doses according to ACIP guidelines?

Children younger than 9 may need two doses of influenza vaccine depending on the number of influenza vaccines they have received in the past.  Children should be vaccinated according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), recommendations but only one dose of influenza vaccine is required for school attendance.

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If my school will be providing instruction remotely, will students still need to meet immunization requirements?

The school immunization requirements, including the requirement for seasonal influenza vaccine, apply to all Massachusetts students enrolled in Kindergarten through Grade 12, regardless of whether the district is providing instruction in-person, or using a hybrid or remote learning model.  

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Do the flu immunization requirements apply to students that are homeschooled?

Immunization requirements, including the flu immunization requirement, do not apply to home schooled students unless the student will ever need to access the school building for sports, after school activities or any other reason.

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Will my school have to report on influenza vaccine in the Kindergarten and Grade 7 school immunization surveys?

Yes—the surveys will be open as usual during the fall to input information on other vaccines.   By January 2021, a new section of the survey may be completed to report influenza vaccination rates for students enrolled in Kindergarten and Grade 7.  We anticipate both parts of the survey, the traditional school immunization survey and the influenza component, will be due by the end of January 2021.  The data is reported by number of students per school and  no student names are reported in the survey. 

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Will my school have to report the number of students who received influenza vaccine in the Grade 11 school immunization survey?

Yes—the Grade 11 survey will open in early 2021 and will include the influenza question with the survey.  More information on the timeline for the Grade 11 survey will be available in the future.  The data is reported by number of students per school and  no student names are reported in the survey. 

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Will influenza vaccine be required every year or just for the 2020-2021 school year?

As required by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Influenza vaccine is now a required vaccine for school attendance and will be required as of December 31 for all students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 each school year.   Further, the CDC recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older every year for two reasons:  First, a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time and therefore, an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection, and second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses.

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