Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday announced that all teachers, school personnel and early child care workers in the District must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1 as a condition of employment, eliminating an earlier testing option.
The mayor’s order allows exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but rules out the option for public school teachers and day care professionals to undergo regular testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Bowser’s latest mandate applies to all employees, contractors, interns, and volunteers working in person in D.C. public schools, charter schools, private schools, and child care facilities.
It also mandates that student-athletes who are 12 or older be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to participate in “school-based extracurricular athletics.” Student-athletes who turn 12 between Sept. 16 and Nov. 1 must be fully vaccinated before Dec. 3, Bowser’s order states.
Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday announced that data from a clinical trial shows that their COVID-19 vaccine triggers a strong immune response in children between the ages of 5 and 11. If its use in children is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA), millions of children could be inoculated in the weeks that follow.
As of now, the jab has only been approved by U.S. regulators for those 16 or older, and it remains under emergency use authorization for children aged 12 to 15.
“We know that vaccinations are the most effective tool to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect children who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine,” Bowser, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. “This new mandate requirement, without a test-out option, will add another critical layer to the robust measures we have implemented to reopen our schools and keep our child care centers safe.”
“We also know that sports are a high-risk activity,” she added. “Requiring athletes to get vaccinated will ensure they not only stay safe, but also stay in the classroom and are able to participate in school-based extracurricular athletics.”
Other D.C. contractors and government workers will still be able to undergo weekly testing for COVID-19 to opt out of the vaccine mandate.
It comes as the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant continues to spread across the country, and vaccination rates are beginning to slow.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Aug. 6 that emerging data on the Delta variant shows that no vaccine is fully effective in preventing transmission as people who are fully inoculated can still transmit COVID-19 to others, although they “appear to be infectious for a shorter period.”
The CDC added that “both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people” appear to produce the same viral load when experiencing breakthrough infections of the Delta variant, bringing into question whether vaccine mandates are justified given the implications of setting a precedent for the government to infringe on individual liberties.
The CDC didn’t return multiple requests for comment on the matter.
Bowser said during a news conference on Monday that parents won’t be required to be vaccinated to drop their children off at schools, but “schools might want to address their protocols where they don’t have a lot of adults lingering in the buildings.”