Thousands of DC students not caught up on back-to-school vaccinations

Thousands of D.C. students aren’t caught up on routine back-to-school vaccinations, according to city data provided to the D.C. Council.

As of late last month, 23,506 students across the city’s eight wards aren’t in compliance with routine pediatric shots. That’s 26% of public school students in the District. All students are required to be up-to-date on vaccines for diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, among others.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other health officials have doubled down on the city’s vaccination requirements, emphasizing that students who aren’t in compliance won’t be allowed to attend classes. In July, Paul Kihn, the city’s deputy mayor for education, said D.C. planned to implement a “No Shot, No School” policy this school year.

Health officials have maintained that many students across the country fell behind on the routine shots during the pandemic, leaving many behind as they transitioned back to the classroom.

Tuesday is the city’s deadline for pre-K through fifth graders to be up to date. Students in sixth through 12th grades have to be caught up by Nov. 4.

City officials said there’s a two-week grace period for students with upcoming vaccination appointments or those who have already submitted proof of vaccination but haven’t had their paperwork processed yet.

In a tweet, Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George said the compliance rate for routine shots has only improved 3% since Aug. 19.

The D.C. Council is hosting a public roundtable on its “No Shots, No School” policy on Tuesday, and in written testimony, Thomas Farley, with DC Health, said there are 50 clinic locations across the city that are offering routine vaccinations.

DC Health has also partnered with Children’s National to offer clinics at five locations across the city until Nov. 18.

Locations of vaccine clinics across D.C. (D.C. Mayor’s Office)

Farley said that according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 93% of D.C. kids got their first measles, mumps and rubella shot, and 71% received the entire primary series by their second birthday.

Teens in D.C., Farley said, are four points below the national average for getting measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines.

Kihn, the deputy mayor for education, said in prepared testimony for Tuesday’s roundtable that “enforcing No Shots, No School is the right public health decision, and we are committed to it.”

Students 12 and older in D.C. also are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as part of legislation the D.C. Council passed last year.

About 46% of students 12 and older aren’t in compliance with that requirement, according to city data. All eligible students must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 3. 

In Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest school system, about 22,200 students weren’t in compliance with back-to-school vaccination requirements as of last month, according to data Superintendent Michelle Reid provided to the school board.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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