The Biden administration said Thursday it is launching an all-out effort to get students 12 and older vaccinated this fall via their school. To achieve this, the administration will promote vaccinations at school physicals, send pediatricians to back-to-school nights to vaccinate, and provide funding for school districts to set up pop-up vaccination clinics.
“These include helping get our young people vaccinated. We’re doubling down to get more students vaccinated as they return to school. We know vaccines are working and they’re the safest and most effective way to fight back COVID-19, to prevent outbreaks, and to ensure a safe school year,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Thursday.
He added, “I am echoing the president’s call to action to host pop-up vaccine clinics in every school across the country, to enlist trusted leaders in our community, to build vaccine confidence.”
In addition, from Aug. 7 through 15, the administration will launch a “week of action” by sending Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Cardona to Topeka, Kansas, to visit a back-to-school vaccine clinic. The initiative will rally school districts, students, teachers, national organizations, local government leaders, businesses, social media influencers, celebrities, and volunteers to promote vaccination.
The effort highlights the steps that President Joe Biden and his team have laid out to get ahead of the transmission of the Delta variant as schools and universities reopen.
“While the Delta variant is providing new challenges, we have the tools, we have the resources, and we have the experience of what worked last year to get it done safely,” said Cardona.
Cardona told reporters that much of the funding to prepare schools to reopen and vaccinate students was allocated in the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed earlier this year.
The Secretary said it will take the whole community to stop the spread, and they need “to get creative with incentives” to promote vaccinations.
According to the Mayo Clinic data, about 15 percent of those under age 18 have received at least one vaccine dose, with over 50 percent for 18- to 24-year-olds.
Earlier this week, the administration released its “Return to School Roadmap,” which details how schools’ communities can safely reopen schools for in-person learning and mitigate the spread of the virus. The initiative focuses on the three areas of health and safety, building communities, and academic achievement.
The education secretary said the administration is following the CDC guidelines and asked schools districts to do the same by encouraging social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and vaccination for older children.
When Cardona was asked what the administration will do with state leaders who ban mask mandates, like Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, he said the administration would monitor the situation and intervene if children were getting sick or the school had low enrollment because parents were afraid to send their children.
Abbott and DeSantis signed executive orders banning any mask mandates in their states, saying parents and individuals have the right to choose if they wear a mask.
“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” said Abbott in May.
Cardona said he is in contact with all the governors and considers them allies in keeping children safe, “but if we’re starting to notice that students are not going in [to school] because they don’t feel confident, then we’re going have to have conversations about them,” said Cardona.