The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has officially mandated a full series of COVID-19 vaccination shots for students 12 to 15 years old as a part of the required inoculations for the upcoming 2022-23 school year.
According to District data, over 85% of D.C. residents ages 12 to 15; 76% of residents ages 16 and 17 and 52% of residents ages 18 to 24, have been fully vaccinated with their primary series. However, the 85% pool of vaccinated children ages 12 to 15 years of age drops at a significant 60% rate when observing Black children across the city. OSSE’s latest mandate will now ensure full vaccination rates within in-school learning spaces overall.
“We want to make sure that all of our students have everything they need for a healthy start to the school year,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Grant said in a press statement. “This means making sure children see their primary medical provider for a well-child visit and receive all needed immunizations.”
The city is currently providing various vaccination centers for District residents made available at Mary’s Center, Children’s National Medical Center clinics and Unity Health Care, in addition to a number of school-based health centers.
As the District pushes the need for protection against the viral infection within classrooms, local instructors support the mandate for safety sake, while also acknowledging the lingering concern of some parents to complete the vaccination series for their children.
“[Initially], it wasn’t so much that I didn’t trust the vaccine [but rather] that I had a fear of needles. But I feel like in the long-run, me taking this vaccine will make it so that I can be in front of my students and colleagues and not be of any danger to them,” said Mr. Z, a District teacher in a Ward 4 charter school who works mostly with special needs children.
“So I took on the vaccine knowing that doing this will make it so that my students, co-workers and especially I don’t get sick. Although, I probably would have preferred it to be more so a choice for parents, for them to vaccinate their children for COVID,” he said.
The D.C. teacher said the previous virtual schooling period adopted due to the virus outbreak has created a more difficult schedule for parents attempting to keep up with their children’s inoculations. He said he has had a number of parents share their apprehension about having their children receive the vaccine. But he believes it serves as an essential step to take prior to bringing their children back for the upcoming fall semester.
But despite many parents’ concerns about completing COVID vaccinations and continuing booster shots throughout the season, local health physicians continue to advocate the extreme importance of utilizing the available shots to protect school children from the rampant spread of the virus.
One local physician, Dr. Valda Crowder, provided insights for educators on how they can more effectively communicate with parents who may be less inclined to follow through with the mandated shots.
“I ask [parents], have you had this conversation with [your child’s] pediatrician? Because most of them have not,” she said. “And the pediatrician is somebody that they really respect and with whom they have a long term relationship. I sometimes tell them that as a physician, I recommend getting the vaccine. Above all, I tell them to trust their pediatrician who I know will advise them to get their child vaccinated. It’s important not to force them into any decision or shun them but rather to treat them with respect and to respect how they feel.”