Some parents say the mandate has caught them off-guard.
"Parents feel like we’ve been shut out of the process and I think this decision this morning is another example of that I think it’s another example of the fact Fairfax county school system doesn’t think before they communicate sometimes, the message was not well thought out," said Kim Putens, a parent in the district.
School officials say the majority of pauses to instruction for high school students are coming as a result of exposure during athletic activities, which the Virginia Department of Education classifies as "high-risk" activities.
The mandate applies to winter and spring sports, as well as dance and step teams.
The requirement kicks in on Nov. 8.
Fairfax County Schools Athletic Director Bill Curran told FOX 5 that the timeline gives unvaccinated students time to fulfill the participation requirement before winter sports season starts.
"There’s the expiration, the fact that you’re breathing heavy obviously it doesn’t really lend itself to things like social distancing and things like that so the reality is that not necessarily that they are at greater exposure but there’s a chance, so the reality is that we’re looking at the information from our Health Department," Curran said.
The Fairfax County vaccine mandate for student athletes arrives amid a wider debate over mandating vaccines for all children.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he thinks mandating COVID-19 vaccines for students 12 and older is a "good idea."
Health experts are now saying that they’re seeing more serious illnesses among students infected with the Delta variant than those who’ve been infected with previous mutations of the novel coronavirus.
"We’re hearing of reports in daycare centers that are closing, reports of classes that are being put on remote education, parts school buildings across the country and the regions forced to go into a quarantine or isolation mode," said Dr. Jeffery Gold of the University of Nebraska Medical Center
In a statement, Fairfax County Superintendent of Schools Scott Braband said he understands the athletics vaccine mandate will be a difficult decision for some families. FOX 5 has learned that there will be some exceptions made for religious or health reasons – but otherwise with will be required if students want to play hs sports in Fairfax public schools.