Back-to-school vaccines: Only one school system needs COVID shots

ACROSS AMERICA – For the most part, students returning to school are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, despite discussions earlier this year encouraging mandatory inoculations to prevent the spread of coronavirus in public schools.

Last year, as the omicron variant surged after holiday trips and gatherings, mandatory vaccinations were initiated in several states and school districts to control the spread of the virus which nationwide killed 1 .03 million people since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

The only place in the country where students will be required to get a coronavirus shot as a condition of enrollment this fall is the District of Columbia. The requirement applies to “all students who are of an age for which there is a fully FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccination.”

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California considered similar requirements but pulled out of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate last spring.

Legislatures in 20 states prohibit local school districts from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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They are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 30% of American children between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 60% of young people aged 12 to 17 are fully immunized.

Overall, about 223 million people — or about 67% of the eligible U.S. population — have been fully vaccinated nationwide, including 107.5 million people who received their boosters, according to the CDC.

Will the students hide?

The CDC relaxed its mask guidelines in February, telling K-12 schools they could tie their local policies to community rates of COVID-19 illnesses and hospital capacity, rather than the total number of COVID cases. -19.

As a result, schools are relaxing protocols to slow the transmission of COVID-19, even as the BA.5 variant – the most contagious yet – is spreading rapidly across the country.

For example, only seven of the nation’s 500 largest school districts planned to require students and staff to wear masks, according to tracking firm Burbio. That compares to 369 major school districts requiring masks in October 2021.

In part, the drop in mask requirements in major school districts is due to political pressure. In Georgia, for example, public schools in Clayton County cannot require students to wear masks due to a state ban, but they do require adults and visitors to wear face coverings.

“The goal is to be in person, face to face, as close to normal as possible,” Morcease Beasley, the district superintendent, told EducationWeek, an independent news outlet that covers education issues and of school. “Staff are very supportive, visitors are very supportive, and many students, although not required of them, also wear them.”

Pre-COVID Anti-Vax Tide

A wave of vaccine skepticism swept the country before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, threatening to reverse progress in eliminating measles, mumps and other childhood diseases decades after they were eradicated in the United States. United States.

The bitterly polarizing question pits public health officials and other members of the medical profession — and a growing number of state lawmakers — against so-called “anti-vaxxers,” who often cite religious freedom, objections personal and government overreach in their decisions to delay vaccinations. or not vaccinate their children at all.

Much of the current opposition to vaccines can be traced to a 1988 article published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in which former British physician Andrew Wakefield falsely linked the MMR vaccine to autism.

His co-authors and the journal all wrote it up, and Wakefield lost his medical license because of his claims. Although the claim has been repeatedly debunked, it still appears on social media as fact, heightening fears about vaccine safety.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws in effect requiring students to be vaccinated against childhood diseases, but most of them — 44, as of May — also allow religious exemptions.

In addition, 15 allow philosophical exemptions for children whose parents oppose vaccination due to personal, moral or other beliefs. Many states are aligning their vaccine requirements with recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

State laws vary widely in what they require. All states except Alabama require students to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. About half a dozen states or locations – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island – require students to get the flu shot every year.

In general, kindergarten children between the ages of 4 and 6 should be vaccinated against chickenpox; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DCaT vaccine); measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine); and poliomyelitis. In middle school and high school, students should be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, human papillomavirus (HPV vaccine), and serogroup B meningococcal infection.


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Jeremy S. McLain