The Baker administration is planning to work with schools and municipalities to get more people to get a flu shot this fall, when cold and flu season is poised to overlap with ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19.
Word of the developing strategy was tucked into a memo that Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley sent to school superintendents detailing safety protocols for reopening schools.
“Not only do flu symptoms closely mirror COVID-19 symptoms, but managing both a bad flu season and ongoing presence of COVID-19 could be highly disruptive for our educational institutions and healthcare system. It is essential that the educational and public health communities, as well as cities and towns, work closely together to ensure as many children and adults as possible receive flu vaccines this fall,” Riley wrote. “Given the high priority of flu vaccinations, particularly this year, the administration will work with these key stakeholders and others on a strategy to enhance flu vaccination coverage in Massachusetts, particularly among school aged children.”
For the 2018–19 influenza season, Massachusetts had the highest rate of vaccination among children between six months and 17 years old. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the state had 81.1 percent flu vaccination coverage among children, compared to a national average of 62.6 percent. For adults, Massachusetts had the second-highest rate of flu vaccination at 53.5 percent. Only Rhode Island’s rate of 56.3 percent was higher, according to the CDC.
“While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever,” the CDC wrote on its website. “CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.”
In his memo, Riley said guidance on flu vaccination will be coming from the Department of Public Health.