By: Gina Gemba — Correspondent
In late August 2020, Massachusetts state public health officials announced that the influenza immunization will be mandated for all children and students six months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, preschool, K-12 school, and universities.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, this new vaccine mandate is necessary to reduce the impact of respiratory related illness during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Barbara Munden, a registered nurse and wellness teacher at Sharon High School, agrees that the flu vaccine mandate will help alleviate the strain on our resources during the pandemic.
“In terms of the pandemic, its going to help in terms of the hospitals trying to figure out if a patient’s sickness is flu or coronavirus,” Munden said.
Understandably, the mandate for the flu vaccine has caused concern among parents who are skeptical about the effectiveness of the immunization and are wary about giving it to their children. In fact, over 15,000 Massachusetts citizens have signed off on a petition in opposition to the mandate.
“I thought it was a good thing, I even had to convince one of my sons that I thought it was a good thing. He’s a parent and he is obviously going to because of his daughter,” Munden added.
“I don’t think he liked being told that he had to even though he was going to get the flu shot anyways, and I think a lot of people felt that way,” said Munden.
Munden also called attention to some of the common misconceptions surrounding the flu vaccine that often turn parents away from giving it to their children.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the flu shot. It’s something that people in the medical field have been battling for a long time — people think that they are going to get the flu from the flu shot,” Munden said.
A Sharon High School student who wishes to remain anonymous said that they normally shy away from the flu shot because of the negative perceptions of its effects.
“I’ve experienced multiple people telling me that they got the flu after getting the flu shot, and that really made me not want to get it,” they said.
Munden debunked this common misconception, revealing the science behind why this information is false.
“It takes a little while for your immune response to kick in after getting the flu shot, so if you get the flu after getting the shot, it’s that you were exposed and you were going to be getting it anyways and are likely going to get a lesser severe case,” Munden added.
According to Munden, misconceptions about the flu vaccine also have to do with people using the term “flu” loosely, not taking into consideration the severity of the virus.
“When people get sick, sometimes they’ll say “oh I had the flu, and I’ll usually ask ‘was it true influenza?” Because true influenza really knocks you down—it can lead to pneumonia and secondary things that can cause deaths,” said Munden.
In response to this mandate, not only will Sharon High School be providing flu vaccines for students as they have in the past recent years, but they are considering administering vaccines for staff.
“Each year usually they have given the opportunity for students to get flu shots at school, Munden said. “I talked to the school nurse Ms. Feldman and I am pretty sure they are planning even a flu vaccine for staff as well.”