In the middle of summer, the school may seem blissfully distant to American students. But for many eligible, time may be running out to return to school: a full vaccination against the coronavirus before classes resume.
Many of the country’s 13,000+ counties, particularly in the south and southwest, plan to start the 2021-22 school year well before Labor Day. Completing a regimen of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, the only vaccine now federally approved for 12 to 17 year olds, takes a minimum of five weeks for the two vaccinations to be given and full protection to be achieved. In many of these early-starting districts, students would need to get their first dose in the next few days to be fully immune in time.
In the Hamilton County School District, Tennessee, the first day of school is scheduled for August 12th. From then on, the students would have to get their first shot no later than Thursday in order to be fully protected by the opening day.
Cody Patterson, a spokesman for the district, which includes Chattanooga and serves 45,000 students, said that while vaccinations are not mandatory for the new school year, the district made it clear to parents “that we believe vaccination is a key strategy in helping To keep school open ”. . “
Mr Patterson said individual schools in the district would likely accept students on a case-by-case basis if they were concerned about completing their vaccinations.
Schools across the country were closed and switched to online classes when the pandemic broke out last year. But as the pandemic progressed, research showed that elementary and secondary schools weren’t the main drivers of infection.
Colleges are a different matter, with a number of breakouts on campus. Many colleges (along with some private secondary schools) require vaccinations to allow students to attend in person this fall. This is more difficult for public middle and high schools for legal and other reasons, and a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers said the union is not aware of any U.S. school district that requires vaccinations.
A vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds has only been available in the US since May. In many states, teenagers require parental consent to be vaccinated. No vaccine is yet approved for children under 12 years of age.
Michael Poore, the superintendent of the Little Rock School District in Arkansas, said the district contacted parents, worked with local health officials, and engaged in extensive local and social media contacts to persuade students and their parents to get a vaccine to get.
The district also hosted vaccination events at its 11 middle and high schools, he said, but only 300 to 400 of the district’s approximately 11,000 eligible students received vaccinations at the events.
School in Little Rock begins August 16th. In order to be fully protected by then, students would have to receive their first dose by Monday.
“We’re really going to be pushing the vaccines in August,” said Mr Poore, “because if you haven’t received the vaccination and are in close proximity to someone who has the virus, you must be quarantined.”
In some places, it’s too late for unvaccinated students to fully protect themselves before school, such as the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona, which will reopen on July 21.
Kimberly Guevara, a district spokeswoman, said the district informed parents when the youth vaccine was approved and told them how to get a vaccination, but “we will not force vaccinations on students.”
Ms. Guevara said that she and the eligible members of her family were vaccinated as soon as possible.