Students who are at least 16 years old will soon be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend school in the nation’s capital following a vote by the D.C. Council on Tuesday, but not every parent is happy with the move.
Lawmakers passed a measure mandating that students receive the vaccine if they land in the age range that has been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Currently, the vaccine is fully approved just for people 16 and above. It still has only “emergency authorization” for kids between 5 and 15.
“I think it is an overreach,” said Mercedes Kearney, a mother who has two kids in the D.C. public charter school system. “I’m really upset about it because it should be my husband’s and my choice — not theirs.”
Kearney said that she will be “forced” to have her children vaccinated because she will have no other option.
“I’m not able to homeschool my kids,” she said.
Lawmakers who support the requirement argue that it is nothing new, pointing to vaccines that are already required for students under D.C. law, including those for measles, rubella and mumps.
“With the recent rise in cases, notably in our schools, we must utilize every single tool available to keep our communities healthy,” said Council member Christina Henderson.
The legislation, which applies to all schools whether they are public or private, calls for students to be vaccinated by March 1, but the mandate would not be enforced in earnest until the 2022-2023 academic year.
According to D.C. Council documents, the bill will direct physicians who provide routine childhood immunizations to submit immunization certificates electronically to the District’s Department of Health, which will then transmit the certificates to a student’s local education agency.
Students who have a medical or religious reason for not being vaccinated may be exempt.
The mandate is the first of its kind anywhere in the D.C. region.
In September, Los Angeles became the largest school district in the U.S. to issue a mandate for student vaccinations.
In other states, mandates have been more limited.
New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, has only required student vaccinations for high-risk extracurricular activities such as band, orchestra and dance, and certain sports, including football, basketball and wrestling.
Several other states have gone in the opposite direction, including Florida, Texas and Alabama, which have measures that could restrict officials or school districts from imposing coronavirus vaccine mandates for students.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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