Massachusetts removes flu vaccine requirement for students
By Felicia Gans, Globe Staff

Massachusetts has removed its requirement for nearly all students in the state to receive the flu vaccine this academic year — a mandate that was believed to be the first of its kind in the nation when it was announced in August 2020.

The Department of Public Health continues to “strongly recommend’’ that anyone who is six months or older get a flu vaccine every year, according to a spokesperson for the agency.

“Preliminary data show that this has been a mild flu season to date, presumably as people have received their seasonal flu vaccine and have been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19,’’ a spokesperson wrote in a statement released last Friday. “Given the intensive Commonwealth-wide efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccination, DPH wants to alleviate the burden to obtain flu vaccination and focus on continuing our COVID-19 vaccination efforts.’’

The mandate announced last summer would have required anyone six months or older in child care centers, preschool, kindergarten, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities to get the flu vaccine, unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

Students who are homeschooled or higher-education students who are living off campus and taking remote-only classes were not required to get the vaccine.

State officials at the time called it “an important step to reduce flu-related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness’’ amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com.