(WGGB/WSHM) -- State officials, on Thursday, said their new flu shot mandate for children will help boost the vaccination rate and fight COVID-19

However, not everyone is happy with this new requirement.

There are exemptions for homeschooled kids and those with medical or religious waivers, but based on the local community’s reaction, many feel this mandate goes too far.

“Pushing that number up higher would be a good thing,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

State officials touted statistics that Massachusetts has some of the best vaccination rates in the country.

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In Massachusetts, Franklin County had the second highest rate of kindergartners with an exemption for all vaccines, according to state numbers from 2019.

Overall, the exemption average for the state is low, but as flu season rushes down the pike, the state has mandated all children over six months get the flu shot children if they attend day care, any school, or college in Massachusetts, even if they use a remote program.

There are a few exemptions allowed for medical and religious reasons.

“This vaccine requirement will provide an additional necessary layer of protection,” Baker added.

There’s concern that too many flu cases, presenting symptoms similar to COVID-19, could strain hospital resources.

However, many local people don’t believe they should have to vaccinate their kids.

In a Western Mass News poll of nearly 1,000 people, more than 70 percent do not support the mandate.

“I’m for it, but I’m kind of like against it. I think the wording making it mandatory has made it more like it’s a hard decision for parents,” said Shalonda Nicholson-Mabry, a family services clinician at a local day care.

Nicholson-Mabry is also a parent. She believes the state’s goal to up the flu vaccine rate would be better achieved by telling parents to follow a suggestion, rather than a mandate.

“I have mixed emotions on it. I think if the terminology was different, like they would most likely recommend all children in Massachusetts get the flu shot, I think they would have a better outcome,” Nicholson-Mabry added.

We reached out to state health officials for more information on how the mandate would be enforced and what punishments could arise from ignoring it. They have not yet responded.

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