On Tuesday, city lawmakers voted to postpone the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for Washington, D.C. students. This will allow the mandate to be delayed until next school year.
This is the second delay by the D.C. Council to the school vaccine requirement since December 2021 when it passed an order that required all students aged 12 and over to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for in-person classes. In the initial legislation, students were required to provide proof of vaccination within 20 calendar days of the start of school. However, lawmakers changed the date to January 3, 2023 due to slow compliance.
“We have to make policy as realists. The reality is that the information vacuum created in the pandemic created opportunities for falsehoods and this was a problem,” stated Christina Henderson, Councilmember who originally wrote the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. “We must meet people where they’re at, and many people are still not ready to accept this particular treatment. After all the hard work to get students back to school, we don’t want them to be excluded from the classroom.
The lawmakers announced Tuesday that the mandate for vaccines will not be implemented until the 2023-24 school years. The original student vaccine mandate was introduced by councilmembers. They said that they would review the legislation after having second thoughts.
“We went too far in mandating the mandate,” stated Phil Mendelson (Chairman of the Council), who introduced the legislation last year with Henderson.
Henderson stated last month that she would try to delay the requirement for vaccines. This is despite the fact that much has changed in the knowledge of lawmakers about coronaviruses since last year’s legislation was introduced. D.C. Health officials, for example, have asked whether COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory or if schools should encourage them in the same manner as flu shots.
Some council members argued against the delay, arguing that another postponement would further undermine compliance.
Brooke Pinto, Councilmember, stated that by extending the deadline, we are jeopardizing the ability to enforce any other vaccine mandates later on. She also said that we are inadvertently feeding into misinformation about vaccine effectiveness.
Henderson stated that 44% of the students in traditional public schools are still not vaccinated against COVID-19 because families have been slow to comply. Henderson also said Tuesday that Henderson believes this is a sign that the government has failed to meet its mandate. In September, that number was at 45%.
As Mendelson suggested Tuesday, the future of the mandate is uncertain.
He said that the mandate looked like it would be adopted across the country. “We seemed to be in sync and following the science. One year later, where is the science? The CDC website doesn’t recommend a mandate. “The pandemic is becoming more endemic.”