DC Council approves COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students

The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to require eligible District school students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as cases in the national capital region continue to surge.

Early child care educators will also need to be vaccinated by March 1, 2022.

It’s the first legislation of its kind in the D.C. region.

Council members overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill and emergency legislation.

“Today, I am proud to share the Council voted to pass both my emergency and permanent legislation requiring students and early childcare workers to be immunized against COVID-19,” At-Large Council member Christina Henderson tweeted.

The mandate won’t be enforced until the 2022-2023 school year. It covers students eligible to receive a fully-approved vaccine.

A report from the Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE), which examines legislation the council considers, found that such a mandate could exacerbate racial inequity for Black schoolchildren.

The CORE report on the legislation that was advanced in the D.C. Council on Tuesday said that while it might improve health outcomes for Black residents, “enforcement of the bill will exacerbate racial inequity by disproportionately removing Black students from school. This may result in increased learning loss, additional negative social and educational outcomes and in blocking students from vital school resources.”

The council’s vote comes a day after Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstated D.C.’s indoor mask mandate. Bowser will need to sign the new legislation.

In addition, the council voted to give Northwest’s Woodrow Wilson High School a new name.

The council approved naming it Jackson-Reed High School in honor of two Black pioneers from the school’s history: Edna Jackson, who became the first Black teacher at the school in 1955, and Vincent Reed, who became the school’s first Black principal in 1968.

They also approved a new redistricting map for D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie’s amendment to keep the area around Armed Forces Retirement Home in Ward 5 passed.

Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau’s effort to pause winter encampment evictions failed.

In a statement, the activist group Sunrise DC said the council “rejected legislation that would have protected our unhoused neighbors and increased the possibility of getting housing to D.C.’s most vulnerable residents. This decision comes at an especially dangerous time for our unhoused neighbors. The Council’s inaction today – during the coldest months of the year and a record surge in positive COVID-19 cases – will leave members of our community unnecessarily at risk in the months to come.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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