Will your child’s school require Covid vaccinations?

Once children over the age of 12 are eligible for Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, the question remains whether they need to get it before going back to school in the fall.

“As with everything with Covid, this will be a school district decision,” said Sharon Masling, a partner at the Washington, DC-based law firm Morgan Lewis. Masling has advised high schools and colleges on how to deal with the desire to have students vaccinated before returning to the classroom.

“Some school districts want to be aggressive and see that vaccines are needed to get back to normal, while other school districts may want to move more slowly, especially in areas where there is a lot of vaccine hesitation,” she said.

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Washington State’s Eatonville School District hosted its own vaccination clinic for students soon after the eligibility was extended to all over 16s.

Information was sent to 350 families in the district prior to the on-site vaccination day. Of the 100 parents who followed up, only 50 said they would allow their child to be vaccinated. On the day of the clinic, only 27 of these students showed up.

Although the district will strongly encourage all students to get vaccinated once they are eligible, hesitating about the vaccine remains a significant hurdle, according to Eatonville’s Superintendent Krestin Bahr.

This is one of the reasons the school district is no longer mandating vaccinations before returning to school in the fall, Bahr said.

Washington State’s Eatonville School District hosted a student vaccination clinic shortly after the eligibility was expanded to include all 16+ year olds.

Source: The Eatonville School District

Since the students are back in the classroom, “we’ve been seeing a lot of psychological needs,” she said. Her priority is to keep these students in school and there is a real fear that a requirement will drive some of them away, she added.

The New Canaan, Connecticut Public School District recently opened a vaccination clinic for students over the age of 16 and is ready to offer another for students 12 and older as soon as the Food and Drug Administration announces its approval, said Bryan Luizzi, superintendent of New Canaan Public Schools.

“Vaccination is an extremely high leverage strategy and I am optimistic that the vast majority of eligible students and staff will be vaccinated by fall,” he said. “However, I do not expect the students to have to be vaccinated before the start of the new year,” added Luizzi.

Superintendents in other parts of the country also say school children will be encouraged rather than obliged to receive the Covid-19 vaccine once the FDA approves Pfizer admissions for 12-15 year olds – but for a variety of reasons.

“Vaccination has been heavily politicized in Indiana,” said Superintendent Jeffrey Butts of the Wayne Township Metropolitan School District. Although masks are required at school, “residents and parents are pushing back,” Butts said. A vaccine request would also be denied, he added.

For the 16,500 children in his district, the Covid vaccine will likely be on the recommended list, much like the flu shot, he said.

Wilder School District superintendent Jeff Dylan says there is even less chance of a need for vaccines in southwest Idaho.

The rural area with a high poverty rate has seen its share of coronavirus cases, but there is no mask mandate at school, although it has been vaccinated in person since September. “

The vaccine is unlikely to be promoted at all, Dylan said. “I think they’ll leave it alone and it’s up to the parents.”

It is always better to reinforce positive behavior than to give a mandate.

Bob Bollinger

Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

“Reinforcing positive behavior is always better than mandating,” said Bob Bollinger, professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But we have a precedent that vaccinations are required to go to school.”

In fact, there are many vaccination requirements for students enrolled in school to prevent the spread of diseases such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

All 50 states have at least some immunization mandates for children who attend public schools and even children who attend private schools and daycare. In each case there are medical exceptions, and in some cases there are also religious or philosophical exceptions.

Once approved for younger students, some states may add Covid-19 to their list of vaccinations required to attend school. In most cases, these vaccination laws apply to both public and private schools and are subject to the same exceptions depending on the state.

Currently, private schools reserve the right to request vaccinations for students but are waiting to formalize a policy one way or another, according to Myra McGovern, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Independent Schools.

More than 200 colleges and universities have already announced that Covid recordings will be added to the list of required vaccinations for students returning to campus in autumn 2021.

The difference is that students are technically mature, Masling said. “They live in dorms, they go to crowded parties, and they’re 18 and older.”

For parents of younger children, the hesitation of the vaccine remains a major obstacle.

According to a poll by ParentsTogether, a national advocacy group, in March, only 58% of parents or caregivers said they would vaccinate their children against Covid, although 70% of parents said they would vaccinate themselves.

According to ParentsTogether, low-income households and minority groups were even less likely to vaccinate their children.

Still, experts see expanding vaccinations to teenagers as a way back to personal education after so many schools struggled to stay open as cases spread across communities across the country.

Reports of “significant” academic learning losses in school districts across the country highlighted concerns about the impact of virtual learning on education at all levels.

The future will depend a lot on what happens across the country, Bollinger said. When schools fail to reopen due to high infection rates, “we may see more and more places where vaccinations are required.”

“If you can provide the incentives to keep vaccination rates high enough to reap the benefits, that’s great,” said Bollinger. “If you can’t, we’ll have to think of other strategies to get us there.”

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