It’s almost time to get back to school for more than 90 thousand students in the District. But, with less than 3 weeks to go before classes start, many students do not have all of their required vaccines.
All DC students —public, public charter and private — have to submit a DC Universal Health Certificate that includes proof they are up to date with their shots.
DC health said as of late July, only 73 percent of students had submitted those forms. That’s compared to 93 percent nationally.
Even before the pandemic, DC needed to improve vaccination rates. But the problem was made worse by the pandemic. Not just here but all over the world. Stuck at home due to COVID, many families missed routine check ups and so didn’t get routine vaccines.
Historically, DC Health has been reluctant to enforce the rule. Last year, they just wanted to get kids back into classrooms after a year of virtual learning.
But this year is different. Classes begin at DC Public School on Aug. 29th. It is even earlier for some of the private or charter schools. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said there will be no virtual option. But If kids don’t have proof they are fully immunized in to school by the 20th day of class—or Sept. 19 —they could be barred from attendng.
And in June, Mayor Bowser said they would be.
“I have to say, the requirement will be enforced; it will be. So now is the time to get your child vaccinated.”
This year, District students aged 12 and older will need asp to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Last year DC Council passed a law last year that requires it, when the vaccine has full approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Full approval is different than emergency authorization and is done by age group. In July, the FDA gave it to the COVID vaccine for kids 12 to 15.
But the District has done a pretty good job of getting the COVID shot to teens. DC Health said 87 percent of kids between 12 & 15 are fully vaccinated against COVID. More than 90 percent have at least one shot. That’s a small gap that officials think can be closed.
The real problem now is with routine vaccinations. Experts say we need 95 percent of kids to be covered to prevent an outbreak. But a quarter of District students are missing the shot that would protect them and their classmates against diseases like tetanus, mumps or measles.
DC Health Senior Deputy Director Dr. Thomas Farley says that’s not enough kids vaccinated to prevent an outbreak of a deadly disease in our schools.
“Measles is still circulating around the globe, meaning it is just one plane ride away from the District,” Farley said, adding that it is potentially fatal in children.
A month earlier, District Mayor Muriel Bowser, said that is exactly what the city is worried about.
At a June press conference, Bowser said, “We’re at a level of real concern that we could have a preventable disease circulate in one of our buildings. So we have to do everything we can to stop that.”
Last year the District gave away AirPods, Nationals tickets and cash cards to get students to take the COVID vaccine.
This year the District appears to be depending on people to do the right thing with the routine shots.
But they’re still reminding everyone to do it. Schools are flagging incomplete student records, calling and writing letters to parents and even doing home visits.
Since June, DC has sent more than 20 thousand letters and made nearly 30 thousand phone calls reminding families to get those records up to date. And if you got one and you think your kid is up to date: you should know: the city did not contact every family. If you were contacted that means the school needs the proof.
Dr. Asad Bandealy is Chief of DC Healthcare Access Bureau. At a conference in late July, he acknowledged that DC’s data was incomplete. That’s because many District kids are vaccinated in other states.
“In many cases a child may be fully vaccinated, but we just don’t have that proof,” he said at a July press conference. “We need that proof to be sure we protect kids against outbreaks in schools.”
DC is creating opportunities to get shots and proof. More than 50 clinics have opened since June. Some of those are clinics are at the schools. For instance, the clinic at Anacostia High is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Students can get vaccinated at any school-based clinic —it doesn’t have to be the school they attend.
The District added more clinics at key sites by sending mobile health units on Tuesdays from roughly 10 in the morning to 3 p.m. Next Tuesday, the mobile clinic is at Kelly Miller Middle School; the week after, August 16th, it’s at Stanton Elementary.
And Children’s National is running “No Shots No School” festivals on Saturdays. Next Saturday, they’ll be at the Alabama Giant with food trucks, raffles and giveaways. They’ll help make sure you get the proper shots and form proving you did it.
Almost all of the clinics offer shots and forms free to families through the Vaccines for Children Program. They also take commercial insurance.
But you have to register before you go to most of these clinics. You can find information about these clinics from DC Health by visiting their website —are you ready? DC HEALTH dot dc dot gov slash immunizations.
Or we have links to sign up for all the clinics on our website: eastoftheriver dc news dot com; it’s in the lead article, DC to Enforce Student Vaccines.
But however you go about it, the key is to make sure students get back to school. In the post-COVID world, students are working to close the pandemic learning gap. As Dr. Bandelay of DC Health puts it:
“Our goal is that no child will miss a single day of school. And that means, we need to get started now.”
DC Health is hosting Mobile Clinics at schools during the week. Any students can register to be immunized at any Schoo even if they don’t attend classes there. But you have to sign up 24 hours before the clinic.
MOBILE CLINICS SIGN UP
Morning: 10:00-11:30am | Afternoon: 1:00-3:00pm
Tuesday, August 9: Eastern HS (Ward 6)
Tuesday, August 16: Kelly Miller MS (Ward 7)
Tuesday, August 16: Stanton ES (Ward 7)
Thursday, August 18: Ellington HS (Ward 2)
Tuesday, August 23: McKinley Tech HS (Ward 5)
Tuesday, August 23: Cesar Chavez (Ward 7)
Children’s National FESTIVALS SIGN UP DOSE’CHELLA “No Shots No School” with food trucks, raffles and giveaways. They’ll help make sure you get the proper shots and form proving you did. But you have to register!
Saturday, AUGUST 13 Giant: 1535 Alabama Ave. SE
Saturday, AUGUST 20 Friendship Southeast Friendship Tech Prep (2705 MLK Jr Ave SE)
Saturday, AUGUST 27 KIPP: Smillow Campus (5252 Blaine St. NE)