The District of Columbia Council voted Tuesday to push the city’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students ages 12 and older to next year. The district currently mandates that eligible students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 3, or else be barred from attending school.
D.C. Councilmember Christina Henderson, an independent, joined by Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, introduced emergency legislation to delay the mandate and the council passed it.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who sponsored a bill in September to combat D.C.’s “racist COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools,” told The Daily Signal on Tuesday:
Even as the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] continues to unscientifically push the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, the D.C. Council is beginning to recognize the impossibility and irrationality of throwing thousands of children out of school if they choose not to take the COVID vaccine. We’ve known for a long time now that children face much less risk from COVID-19. It’s time for the D.C. Council to give parents assurance, stop threatening their children’s education, and repeal this racist vaccine mandate once and for all.
“We need more time and understanding,” Henderson told The Washington Post. “So that is why, when [Mendelson] and I discussed it, that is why we thought first doing a delay until school year 23-24 was appropriate, and then for us in the new council period to have a fuller conversation around what happens next.”
“The district is one of three jurisdictions in the country that requires COVID vaccine for public school students,” Mendelson, the D.C. Council chair, said at a Monday legislative briefing. He explained that he and Henderson crafted a COVID-19 emergency policy, which would push off the deadline for students to receive the vaccine in order to attend school.
The Office of State Superintendent of Education reported in September that 45% of D.C. students are not in compliance with the district’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, as of Sept. 27. This policy defines full COVID-19 immunization as both an initial vaccine as well as any additional boosters incorporated into public health standards.
Yet, a mere 6.5% of D.C. residents have received the new COVID-19 booster.
In August, Mayor Muriel Bowser told The Daily Signal there would be no virtual learning options for unvaccinated students. The Daily Signal reported that and the fact that over 40% of black students in the District aged 12 and older were not vaccinated at the time. After The Daily Signal’s report, the city abruptly changed the enforcement deadline for the COVID-19 vaccination, moving it to 2023.
Doug Badger, health and welfare policy scholar at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal, Heritage’s news outlet:
The D.C. government is finally responding to reality: Turning children away from school because they haven’t received the COVID vaccine is infeasible. Most parents understand that the risk of COVID to their children is low and that the vaccines don’t prevent their kids from getting or transmitting the disease. Having closed the schools for too long, it would be unconscionable to turn away students now that they have reopened.
Moreover, over a quarter of D.C. public school students are not up to par with the district’s routine pediatric immunization schedule, which applies to grades as young as pre-kindergarten.
D.C. public schools extended the deadline for pre-K through fifth grade students to Oct. 11 at the beginning of this school year. The deadline for middle and high school students to receive their routine immunizations is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Mendelson noted there has been confusion surrounding the district’s vaccination policies, “in part because the law that we adopted last year requires the vaccine when the student is eligible” for full Food and Drug Administration approval. “Much approval has been emergency authorization, which is not what the law contemplates.”
Though D.C. Council members extended the COVID-19 vaccine deadline for students, Mendelson noted that the routine immunization requirements still apply to pre-K through 12th grade students.
Lindsey Burke, director of education policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal:
Over the course of the pandemic, D.C. fourth graders lost 12 points in math and 7 points in reading on the recently released National Assessment of Education Progress. Those dramatic declines are the equivalent of over a year’s worth of learning loss in math.
Those problems compound over time. Just 16% of eighth graders in D.C. are proficient in math and just 16% are proficient in reading.
The last thing these children need is to be denied entry to school because of politicized, teachers union-supported policies. As D.C. is under its jurisdiction, Congress should immediately allow every single child denied entry into school because of this policy to receive a voucher to attend a private school in Virginia or Maryland.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.