August 19, 2020 | 3:30 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Flu vaccinations will be required for all students 6 months or older who attend child care, pre-school, school and college in Massachusetts to reduce the possibility of a double whammy of respiratory illnesses during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, state health officials announced Wednesday.

Students must get the influenza vaccine by Dec. 31, the state Department of Public Health said in a statement.

There are exemptions, including for medical and religious reasons, as well as for homeschooled children and higher education students who are completely off-campus and engaged in remote learning only.

“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Larry Madoff, the medical director of the department’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said in a statement. “It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve health care resources.”

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