Prince George’s County Public Schools officials continue to urge parents and guardians to have their children immunized against diseases such as measles, mumps and Hepatitis B before the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 29.
Parents will have within 20 days from that date to schedule a child’s appointment, or else “your child will be excluded from school until the school has verification of the immunizations.”
Public schools CEO Monica Goldson reiterated that message for nearly 18,000 listeners during a telephone town hall on Aug. 17.
However, Maryland law doesn’t require students to receive COVID-19 vaccines to attend school.
“If a child or an adult feels ill, please remain home. Do not send the child to school,” Goldson said. “If you believe it is COVID-19, please have the child tested.”
As of Monday, Aug. 22, slightly more than 112,000 Prince George’s residents up to age 19 had received at least one dose of the vaccine produced by the single-dose Johnson & Johnson or the double-dose from either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.
Nearly 40,000, or 25%, in that age group represent the more than 201,100 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county.
In neighboring D.C., officials decided students ages 12 and older must have the COVID-19 vaccine to begin the first day of school Aug. 29.
As of Aug. 17, about 83% of students ages 12 to 15 had completed the “primary series” of vaccinations which does not include the booster shot. Approximately 77% of those ages 16 and 17 received the vaccines.
Some parents, like Linda Tucker of Bowie, said the county should mandate all forms of vaccinations for children, even COVID-19.
“It is not about protecting oneself. It is about protecting everyone,” said Tucker, whose daughter has been vaccinated as she prepares for her senior year at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt.
“If people aren’t vaccinated and get sick, they are not down for a couple of days. They are in the hospital,” Tucker said.
Ashley Young, whose daughter will begin fourth grade at John H. Bayne Elementary in Capitol Heights, said even those vaccinated still test positive for COVID-19.
“What difference does it make?” she said. “With people catching COVID, you shouldn’t be in a lot of individuals’ faces in the first place.”
Young’s daughter has all the required immunizations to begin school but not the COVID-19 vaccine. Neither does she.
She called the decision an “individual choice.”
“If [school officials] want to improve something, there needs to be improvement in the school system,” she said. “John Bayne needs to be updated. There’s no air conditioning in the summertime. Pay the teachers more. That’s where the focus should be to improve my child’s school.”
Parents with children still in need of required vaccinations can attend a free clinic Friday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
Meanwhile, other developments in the county include a state and national trend in a shortage of bus drivers. The county’s vacancy sits at 150.
“If you know of anyone who is looking for a job, please ask them to join one of our virtual or in-person job fairs. We will train them on how to obtain a CDL (commercial driver’s license),” Goldson said during the telephone town hall. “We’re going to ask for your patience.”