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The MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) has added a new influenza vaccine requirement for all children 6 months of age and older attending childcare/preschool, students in all grades of school from Kindergarten through Grade 12, and students of post-secondary institutions. This requirement was put in place to reduce influenza-related morbidity and to reduce the overall impact of respiratory illness in a population still facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will be expected to have received an influenza vaccine for the current influenza season (July-June) by December 31 unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
The Immunization Division acknowledges the intense pressure families and providers are facing in the setting of COVID-19 and continues to advise that vaccinating against vaccine-preventable diseases is important to reduce the overall burden of disease in our communities. We typically roll out a new requirement with at least a year of advanced notice and acknowledge that this departure from the norm is a feature of these unprecedented times.
The updated table of school requirements for the upcoming school year is posted HERE.
Frequently asked question documents are also available about the new flu requirement HERE.
As a reminder, this year also includes a new meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) requirement for entry into Grades 7 and 11. The Grade 11 requirement is for a booster dose of vaccine to be administered on or after the 16th birthday. Teens who turn 16 during the school year will not be expected to be vaccinated until after their 16th birthday.
While the immunization requirements remain in effect for the 2020-2021 school year, we encourage schools to work with families and providers during the initial months of the school year to satisfy the requirement if students are not compliant on the first day of school. Determination for what to do with students who do not comply with these requirements is made by the school district itself. Assessment Unit epidemiologists are available by email to assist with interpreting catch-up vaccine schedules.
Given that the 2020-2021 school year may include partial or complete school closings and remote learning, we have encouraged primary care providers to exercise flexibility in communications with school nurses so that immunization requirements can be documented. School nurses may have limited access to their physical offices and may be unable to access US mail and fax transmissions, and it may be necessary to use secure email or US mail to an alternate location (e.g., the school nurse’s home address) as a method of sending immunization (and other health) records to school nurses. School nurses are authorized to obtain immunization records directly from health care providers without caregiver consent if necessary, as long as a good faith effort has been made to obtain the information from the caregiver.Lastly, results from the most recent 2019-2020 school immunization survey are posted to the mass.gov website (https://www.mass.gov/info-details/school-immunizations). Overall, immunization coverage rates among students in Kindergarten and Grade 7 are similarly high and exemption rates are similarly low compared with years past, although we do know that there are regions and local areas with pockets of higher exemption rates.