Massachusetts grad student, parent suing over flu vaccine requirement

A Springfield grad student and a Waltham mother of two school-aged children are suing the state over the new flu vaccine requirement, looking for a judge to toss the coronavirus-era rule.
The lawsuit, filed by lawyers for Springfield College grad student Madison Schiltz and Waltham mom Tamar Massoyan-Artinian, claims that the state Department of Public Health didn’t follow proper protocol in creating the new requirements for the flu vaccine, so it should be thrown out.
“The problem is that the DPH has no authority to create a new vaccination mandate for students attending colleges and universities — only the Legislature could do that,” reads the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court by New York City-based lawyer Aaron Siri and Boston attorney Stefan Jouret.
The suit names the state Department of Public Health and its Commissioner Monica Bharel as defendants. The DPH didn’t respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Both sides were going to present their cases before a Suffolk Superior judge in Boston this week, but the plaintiff and the defense agreed to push it off for about a month. That came after the state moved the vaccination deadline from the end of December to the end of February. The plaintiffs say they’re still seeking a preliminary injunction to end the requirement.
Under the new rules, influenza immunization will be required for all children 6 months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, preschool, kindergarten, K-12 schools and colleges and universities. The idea, the DPH has said, is to reduce flu-related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
People who don’t want their kids to get a flu shot can try to get a medical or religious exemption; if so, they don’t have to receive the shot. Also exempted from the requirement are K-12 students who are homeschooled and higher education students who are completely off-campus and engaged in remote learning only.
Elementary and secondary students in districts and schools using a remote education model are not exempt.
For older students, the flu vaccine requirement applies to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students under 30 years of age and all full- and part-time health science students.
According to the lawsuit, Massoyan-Artinian doesn’t want her two kids in Waltham Public Schools to take the vaccine because of previous negative reactions to it. She said she sought a medical exemption, but her provider wouldn’t give one.
The suit says Schiltz, 27, is personally opposed to the “unlawful mandate.”

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