DC urges parents to vaccinate kids before school starts in the fall

D.C. families looking forward to their kids’ summer vacation are being given one homework assignment to complete before the next school year begins: Get up to date with vaccinations.

On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser joined officials from DC Health and others at a news conference at the Children’s National Clinic in Southeast. They expressed concern that families in the District are falling behind on routine childhood vaccinations.

“We have to get back to that cycle of making sure that our children are vaccinated. An outbreak of measles or whooping cough in a world where we have safe and effective vaccines should be unacceptable to all of us,” Bowser said.

“We’re at a level of real concern that we could have a preventable disease circulate in one of our buildings, so we have to do everything that we can to stop that,” she added.

D.C. law requires a COVID-19 vaccination for all children 13 and older to attend public school.

On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined officials from DC Health and others at a news conference at the Children’s National Clinic in Southeast. (Photo WTOP/Kristi King)

At the event, DC Health announced it will be offering vaccination services at school-based health clinics.

“So families with children ages 4 and older can visit any school-based health center, regardless of where your child is enrolled, for a vaccination-only appointment,” Bowser said.

Starting in August, there will also be mobile units near schools, rec centers, COVID-19 centers and other community locations in all of the District’s eight wards.

Some of those mobile units were on display at today’s event.

The big emphasis at today’s event was: Don’t wait.

“We want to encourage families not to wait till the last minute,” said Christina Henderson, an at-large member of the D.C. Council. “Go ahead and schedule that now, so that you can get in for an appointment.”

She added, “I think anyone who has young children knows that when you call the doctor’s office and they say ‘Oh, we don’t have any appointments until September!’ You have that frustration that builds up.”

The DC Health website lists many community-based options to help get kids vaccinated.

Bowser recommends that parents contact their regular health care provider to schedule vaccinations for their kids.

“They are the best ones to answer your questions about vaccines and to check in on any other health-related problems,” she said. “They can also complete a form that is necessary … I’ve gotten to know this form very well, the universal health certificate.”

When the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 12 (which currently has emergency use authorization) is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it will be added to the list of routine vaccines required for children to attend D.C. schools.

Bowser said parents shouldn’t wait to their get kids vaccinated.

“If there is a COVID exposure in their classroom and they’re unvaccinated, they can’t go to school,” Bowser said. “There’s COVID in our schools, and the best defense is using the safe and effective vaccine for your health, but also for staying in school and not disrupting your family life.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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