COVID vaccine not mandated for next school year

Amelia Johnson

The COVID-19 vaccine will not be required for students or staff in the 2021-2022 school year. The decision may be subject to change as circumstances surrounding COVID-19 evolve.

“There may be efforts underway to change the law to require the vaccine, but that bureaucratic process will probably not happen quickly,” Principal Martin said  in an email to parents on May 16. 

 Immunization requirements are dictated by DC law, not school policy. DCPS students ages 2-11 plus are required to receive 15 vaccinations. However, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory. As of March, Wilson’s compliance rate for vaccines excluding COVID-19 was 71.8 percent; 564 out of 2,000 students have yet to fulfill immunization requirements and statistics regarding COVID vaccination rates among students are unknown. In an attempt to raise immunization compliance rates, DC Health sends monthly reminders and school nurses are in contact with parents of children overdue on their vaccines. 

Unlike other immunizations required by DCPS, the COVID-19 vaccine has become a contentious topic. “I struggled with the decision to get the vaccine, and I have personally experienced medically-related bias and descrimination. However, I know that a critical step in returning to school safely is that all adults and children who are physically able get the vaccine,” added Martin in her email. She also noted the hesitancy some may have regarding the recent development of the vaccine. 

Chancellor Lewis Ferebee has released a list of student vaccination sites which will open on June 1. These will take place at a number of schools around the city, including Anacostia High School and Eastern High School. 

In a press release on May 27, Ferebee said that, “We owe it to our community members, including our students, teachers, and school staff to protect each other by getting vaccinated.”

Wilson science teacher Nathalya Ramirez feels the return to school is rushed and inadequately prepared for. “If you are putting a lot of people in a building with very little air ventilation… there needs to be a balance of deciding whether everyone should go back at the same time or not,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez believes there should be additional communication between teachers and administration as well as a phased-in entry for students.

Science teacher Hallie Eichen is confident in Martin’s ability to keep students and teachers safe in the return to school. 

“Everybody has their own opinions and beliefs, which should be respected. I have been very impressed by Principal Martin’s encouragement for students to get the vaccine. I have every confidence that she will continue to do what’s best for everyone,” Eichen said. •