DC 12-and-up vaccine mandate may impact black students most, ‘exacerbate racial inequity’

With little regard for reason or consequence, Washington, D.C. schools are plowing ahead with their mandate for students 12-years-old and up to be up-to-date on COVID shots heading into the 2022 – 2023 school year despite reports suggesting this could most negatively impact black students.

In December 2021, the D.C. city council voted to require eligible students to be vaccinated by March 1, 2022, but ruled enforcement would not begin until the new school year began. With the term soon to commence, the school system and Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) alike reminded parents that they are serious about their demands.

“Parents and guardians,” Bowser recently posted to social media, “a new school year is right around the corner! To help keep kids safe in the classroom, all DC students must be up-to-date on required vaccinations before returning this August.”

The message provided a link to clinics where vaccines were available and made clear that the “COVID-19 vaccines are required for children 12 years and older.” So too did the DC Public School system announce Tuesday where parents could take their children to get these required shots.

“Put vaccines on your back-to-school list. Childhood vaccines, including the COVID vaccine for ages 12+, are required for school,” they wrote. “Visit your health care provider, a DC Health mobile clinic, or a school-based health center today!”

Unfortunately, this policy flies in the face of reason and not just because of evidence that these vaccines neither prevent transmission nor symptoms of the virus. The Council Office of Racial Equity, which is a part of the Office of the Secretary of the Washington, D.C. council had advised against the move after a report on the legislation found that “enforcement of the bill will exacerbate racial inequity by disproportionately removing Black students from school.”

“This may result in increased learning loss, additional negative social and educational outcomes and in blocking students from vital school resources,” the report went on.

D.C. Department of Health’s Health Care Access Bureau chief Asad Bandealy may have claimed at a press conference last week that “Our goal is that no child should miss a single day of school,” but the reality, according to a Fox News report, is that while 85 percent of students aged 12 to 15 were said to be COVID vaccinated, only 60 percent of black students in the same age range could make that claim.

That means that 40 percent of black students are at risk of missing class, and as Thomas J. Kane, the faculty director for the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University found in a study conducted earlier this year, “When districts shifted to remote instruction, students in high-poverty schools were most negatively impacted.”

“School districts urgently need to reassess their plans and ensure that the scale of their catch-up efforts matches the magnitude of their students’ losses,” he asserted. “If they don’t, we will see the largest widening in educational inequity in a generation,” as they had already lost on average 0.45 standard deviations in math from remote learning.

This effort to seek an alternative plan is especially prudent as, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, not only are these students not vaccinated, their parents have no intention of doing so despite the requirements set forth by the city council.

As for reasons why, “parents cite concerns about the newness of the vaccine and not enough testing or research, concerns over side effects, and worries over the overall safety of the vaccines.” More than 40 percent of black parents with unvaccinated children aged 6-months-old to 4-years-old also listed concerns about missing work due to side effects making their children ill.


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Kevin Haggerty


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