Jun 7, 2022 - COVID

D.C. urges vaccines for schoolchildren

A young girl in a pink mask is vaccinated.
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

D.C. is urging families to vaccinate their school-aged children before the next school year.

Why it matters: Across the nation, children have fallen behind on getting their routine vaccinations — which are required by D.C. to attend school.

  • In March 2021, the CDC said orders for childhood vaccines had dropped by about 11 million doses, and in April the agency said it saw a decline in kindergarten vaccines.

What they’re saying: According to DC Health senior deputy director Thomas Farley, 80% of kindergarten children have gotten their MMR shots, which prevent mumps and measles, and 79% have gotten all doses of the shot that prevents whooping cough. D.C. did not have data on vaccination beyond kindergarten.

  • “Those percentages suggest that there are not enough children vaccinated in our District to prevent an outbreak in our schools,” Farley said at an event Monday. This puts even vaccinated children at risk, he emphasized.

What’s happening: D.C. is expanding its efforts to vaccinate by:

  • Allowing families to bring their children ages four and up to get vaccinated at any school-based vaccination clinic, regardless of where they’re enrolled;
  • Placing mobile units at schools, recreational centers, and COVID centers in all eight wards starting in August;
  • Allowing schools to request their own vaccine clinics for students.

DC Health will this week begin calling families of students who are not up to date on their vaccinations to encourage them to get vaccinated.

Families have 20 days after the start of school to get students caught up on their shots. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that school immunization requirements will be enforced.

Meanwhile, students 16 and older are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to a D.C. law passed last year that requires student vaccinations once the coronavirus vaccine is approved by the FDA for their particular age group.

  • Only Pfizer has received FDA approval for its COVID vaccine for people ages 16 to 17. Vaccines for younger age groups have received emergency use authorization.
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