In the past, the yearly influenza vaccine has been a personal choice - until now. Massachusetts has become the first state to mandate the flu vaccine for children age five and over enrolled in daycares, schools, and even colleges.

In a story reported on by Western Mass News, Massachusetts made the decision just last week to mandate flu shots for kids.

Dr. John O'Reilly, chief of general pediatrics at Baystate Health, said, "What's changed in this upcoming flu season is really the twin-demic: COVID-19 and now the flu."

O'Reilly went on to say that doctors across the country are urging Americans to get the flu vaccine amid the ongoing pandemic - the reason behind the state Department of Public Health's decision.

He explained, "You're protecting not only from serious flu, but you're keeping that parent or child out of the emergency room where they're going to be exposed to COVID."

O'Reilly added, "Flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, but by awakening the immune system, you may have cells looking for things like COVID-19."

The date to get children vaccinated by is December 31, unless a medical or religious exemption is given.

There is also an online petition of the mandate as well. Go here for more information.

For more on the story, including a parent weighing in on the subject, visit Western Mass News' website.

KEEP READING: See 25 natural ways to boost your immune system

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