WASHINGTON - Schools in the District could soon be the first in the DMV to require all eligible students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes public, public charter, independent, private, and parochial schools.
The DC council today held a public hearing on a bill that would mandate the COVID-19 shot for all students who are age eligible. Some lawmakers pointing out that it’s mandatory for students to get other shots in order to go to school so why not make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory as well?
The Eastern Senior High School PTO President, Heather Schoell, sent a letter to the Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chair Phil Mendelson asking for this change.
"It doesn’t make sense students who play sports have to be vaccinated, but students who are inside eating lunch together, students who are in theater together don’t have to be vaccinated. It doesn’t make any sense. It should be a blanket so everyone can be protected," said Schoell.
The original bill calls for students to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, but the Council is working on pushing back that timeline since that’s just around the corner.
The Children’s Hospital sent a testimony for the public hearing today saying this move would impact the healthcare system’s ability to meet the demand of vaccinating school aged children since all students would have to get their first shot by Wednesday, Nov. 24 which is in less than one month.
Some parents, like Sandra Mocoso, feel this COVID-19 vaccine mandate would make the entire community safer and prevent hundreds of students and staff from having to quarantine.
"We have to get a handle on the pandemic. It’s straining everyone to families to teachers and everything to do with the school," said Moscoso.
Others believe this move is coming too quick. According to DC’s latest health data, only about 45 percent of children in the district ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated. Council members say that is not enough.
Fox 5 asked one DC Public Schools mother, Mercedes Kearney, why she is hesitant about this possible vaccine requirement.
"As a parent, I’m a little skeptical about it because it just seems like it’s rushed right now. I know everyone wants to get back to the normal, but unfortunately – the pandemic has been our normal for the last year and a half," said Kearney. "I think they’re anxious to get all the kids back into schools and just to get everything back to how it was going before so I’m not really for it."
Students with medical or religious exemptions would not be forced to get the vaccine.
What’s next? The Council says there is no specific timeline yet.
The full public hearing is available for viewing here.
Additionally, here are the written testimonies of people and organizations in the community who are on both sides of this.