May 6, 2021 - Health

Schools unlikely to require COVID vaccine as teens become eligible

Illustration of a bandaid shaped like a "no" symbol

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Even if most middle and high schoolers become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine over the summer, most schools aren't likely to mandate them, at least not this year.

Driving the news: The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds soon.

Why it matters: Children are at a low risk for serious illness from COVID-19, but allowing the virus to circulate among unvaccinated kids could lead to new, more dangerous variants and slow down the protection of adults, experts say.

  • But only 52% of parents of a child under 18 say they’re likely to vaccinate their kids as soon as they're able, an Axios/Ipsos survey shows.

What happening: The Los Angeles Unified School District, which initially said it would require students to get vaccinated once the shot was widely available, walked back its statement after lawsuit threats.

  • Other major school districts have either said they won't mandate vaccines or that they're awaiting guidance from local health officials before making a decision, Bloomberg reports.

While public schools require a number of vaccinations against diseases like tetanus, polio and measles, adding the COVID-19 vaccine could be a lengthy process, Alana Genderson, an associate at law firm Morgan Lewis, tells Axios.

  • "Schools need to reengage on how they want to deal with that unvaccinated population of students while also not stigmatizing them," she said.

The bottom line: Experts say schools should forego mandates — and the political uproar and lawsuits they would bring — and simply try to vaccinate as many students as possible voluntarily.

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