Students over the age of 12 will be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines this fall in Washington, D.C., the district's Office of the State Superintendent of Education has announced.
"We want to make sure that all of our students have everything they need for a healthy start to the school year," State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Grant said in a statement on Tuesday. "This means making sure children see their primary medical provider for a well-child visit and receive all needed immunizations."
Beginning this fall, for the 2022-23 school year, student vaccine requirements will include the COVID-19 vaccine for all students for whom there is a federally, fully approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Unless exempted, children ages 12 to 15 will be required to receive a primary COVID-19 vaccine series, or to have started receiving their shots by Sept. 16, 2022. Similarly, all students 16 or older must have received, or have started receiving, their primary COVID-19 vaccination series by the beginning of the school year.
Students attending all Washington, D.C., schools, including private, parochial and independent schools, need to be up-to-date with all required vaccinations in order to attend school. Schools are also mandated to confirm vaccination for all students, according to district law.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for all people 16 years and older since August 2021, and just this month, Pfizer's vaccine was also fully approved for adolescents ages 12 to 15.
As of July 13, 80% of district residents ages 12 to 15; 76% of residents ages 16 and 17, and 52% of residents ages 18 to 24, have been fully vaccinated with their primary series, according to district data.
According to the district's immunization attendance policy, Washington, D.C. law permits medical or religious exemption from vaccination if a parent or guardian submits written documentation to the school explaining the exemption.
If a student has not met the district's vaccination requirements, the school is instructed to contact parents and give the family a period of 20 school days to present an immunization certification. If conditions for vaccination are not met, students will not be allowed to attend school until they have been vaccinated.
Should a prolonged absence occur due to vaccination status, the district guidance states that schools should continue to contact parents and potentially refer families to external support services. Students experiencing homelessness are instructed not to be removed if they do not meet vaccination requirements.
Across the country, in California, officials announced last fall that they would implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students.
"The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps and rubella -- there's no reason why we wouldn't do the same for COVID-19," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement in October. "Today's measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom."
However, in April, the state announced that it would not initiate the regulatory process for its COVID-19 vaccine requirement in schools until after July 1, 2023, to "ensure sufficient time for successful implementation of new vaccine requirements."