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How will the state’s new flu shot mandate work? Here are some answers

The Department of Public Health said it plans to receive nearly 1.2 million doses of flu vaccine this year.
The Department of Public Health said it plans to receive nearly 1.2 million doses of flu vaccine this year.KRISTIAN THACKER/NYT

The state’s new flu shot mandate has sparked a lot of questions about how it will work, who will enforce it, and whether the state even has enough doses to cover everyone who will be required to get vaccinated.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts mandated that nearly all students under age 30 get a flu vaccine by the end of this year amid fears that concurrent outbreaks of influenza and COVID-19 in the fall could overwhelm the state’s health care system.

The regulation requires the vaccination for anyone 6 months or older in child care centers, preschool, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities, unless they have a religious or medical exemption, are home-schooled, or are a higher education student living off-campus and taking remote-only classes.

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We asked the state Department of Public Health how this new initiative will work, and who will enforce it. Here are their answers:

How will this requirement of mandatory flu vaccines work as far as enforcement? Will it be up to each school? Each school district? Local board of health? Who will oversee enforcement?

The enforcement of child care requirements is done by the Department of Early Education and Care. Enforcement of K-12 and post-secondary institutions is done at the local level (either local health department or local school district).

Are there enough doses for the tens of thousands more students who will now be required to have a flu shot?

The Department of Public Health is confident that there will be adequate supplies of flu vaccine this season to meet the increased demand of this new requirement. Pediatric practices are working to update their office vaccination protocols to allow for the vaccination of their patients with both flu and other routinely recommended vaccines. In addition, DPH is working with local health departments to provide them the necessary guidance and tools needed to implement public flu clinics in their communities this year. Pharmacies are also another location that will provide flu vaccines for children this year. DPH will be rolling out a public awareness campaign and developing alternative options to administer flu vaccines in the coming weeks.

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How many doses of flu vaccine does Massachusetts receive in a typical year, and how many doses does the state estimate it will need this year?

Over the past several years, the state health department has purchased approximately 900,000 doses annually. This year, the department said it plans to receive nearly 1.2 million doses.

Will there be a penalty for noncompliance, that is, a penalty to a school or school district, or individual family?

Enforcement is at the local level. The only penalty currently allowed in the law is not being allowed to attend school.


Kay Lazar can be reached at kay.lazar@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.