Washington, D.C., students who are over 12 years old will have to take the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school, a decision that could fall hard on the city’s Black students.
“Our goal is that no child should miss a single day of school,” Asad Bandealy, the chief of the D.C. Department of Health’s Health Care Access Bureau, said of the mandate, according to reporting from the Washington Post. “And that means we need to get started now.”
About 85% of Washington, D.C.’s student population between the ages of 12 and 15 is currently vaccinated against COVID-19, but only 60% of Black students in the same age range have received the shot. If the vaccine mandate is strictly enforced, it could cause more stress to minority communities that have already been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19 policies.
According to one study conducted by Harvard University, closed schools led to large losses in achievement for students during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly among minority and low-income students.
“The students in high-poverty schools that were remote for most of 2020-21 lost about 0.45 standard deviations in math,” Thomas Kane, a professor of education at Harvard and one of the authors of the study, said of the study’s results in an interview with the Harvard Gazette earlier this year.
Kane said that gaps in achievement widened worse in districts that spent more than three weeks in remote learning, arguing that in-person instruction was a “critical piece of our social infrastructure that we had taken for granted.”
But many students in the nation’s capital could now be forced into remote learning situations again with the vaccine mandate, which is among the strictest in the country.
Students in New York City are highly encouraged to get vaccinated but are not mandated to do so unless they plan to participate in certain athletic programs, while students in Los Angeles will not be required to get vaccinated after the Los Angeles Unified School District delayed a mandate that was supposed to be implemented for the upcoming school year.
New Orleans is one of the few large districts in the country with a similar policy to Washington, D.C., adding the coronavirus vaccine to a list of required immunizations for students over 5 years old in February.
The nation’s capital has one of the country’s unique public school systems, which is governed by the 13-member D.C. Council and not by a school board. Anne Liu, an infectious-diseases doctor and clinical associate professor at Stanford University, told the Washington Post that officials are hoping that mandates such as the one in D.C. will help raise the rates of vaccination among children.
“I think it is to the benefit of the children and teachers and staff in the schools, and the rest of the city,” Liu said, calling higher rates of vaccination a “positive thing to work towards.”
The offices of D.C. council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Mayor Muriel Bowser did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.