Washington, D.C., Mayor Democrat Muriel Bowser appeared to avoid addressing a question on why she will not allow unvaccinated black school children back in the classroom this fall by claiming that the statistics she was provided with were inaccurate.
Though many school districts have moved away from such restrictive measures, Washington, D.C., mandates that children 12 and older be “up-to-date on required vaccinations before returning this August.”
A significant portion of D.C.’s black students is not vaccinated, sparking concerns that the mandate disproportionately impacts these children. And on Monday, The Daily Signal’s Douglas Blair questioned the D.C. mayor about “how she could justify forcing 40% of unvaccinated black students to stay home from school.”
“Why is the District continuing with this policy when it seems to disproportionately impact black students?” he asked.
“I don’t think that number is correct,” Bowser responded, though the numbers Blair cited appear to coincide with those put forth by the D.C. Department of Health. “We have substantially fewer number of kids that we have to engage with vaccination. And I explained why it’s important. It’s important for the public health of our students and that we can maintain safe environments.”
— Douglas Blair (@DouglasKBlair) August 15, 2022
On Monday, the office of the deputy mayor for education told The Daily Wire that approximately 85% of students 12 and older have completed their primary series of COVID vaccination, noting that 95% of students have received at least one shot. The office of the deputy mayor for education believes actual coverage is higher than this due to incomplete data.
D.C. Department of Health spokeswoman Kelsey Felton also confirmed to The Daily Wire on Monday that while approximately 85% of children age 12-17 are vaccinated, 60% of African-American children age 12-17 are known to have already received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
“The actual percentages are likely higher because not all vaccines administered outside of the District are known to DC Health,” she explained. “The race-specific coverage number is particularly likely to be an underestimate because the COVID-19 vaccination records DC Health does receive from outside of the District often do not include both age and race.”
“In the District of Columbia, as in every state in the U.S., children are required to be vaccinated against many diseases to attend school, with exemptions granted for medical or religious reasons,” Felton continued. “For the upcoming 2022-23 school year, vaccination against COVID-19 is included among these requirements for children over the age of 12. DC Health believes that vaccinating children against COVID-19 is an important action to protect them and their families from this virus.”
D.C.’s Council, rather than a school board, made the decision to mandate the vaccine despite a Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE) report on the legislation that found “enforcement of the bill will exacerbate racial inequity by disproportionately removing Black students from school.”
“This may result in increased learning loss, additional negative social and educational outcomes and in blocking students from vital school resources,” the report found.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released in late July found that many parents don’t plan to get their child vaccinated against COVID, citing “concerns about the newness of the vaccine and not enough testing or research, concerns over side effects, and worries over the overall safety of the vaccines.”
The survey also found that “about one in ten parents say they do not think their child needs the vaccine or say they are not worried about COVID-19.”
Additionally, the survey reported that 44% of black parents with unvaccinated kids between six months and four years old are concerned that getting their child vaccinated would mean that they take time off work (or that the vaccine would give the child side effects that would require the parent to take time off work).
Similarly, 45% of Hispanic parents expressed fears that they would not be able to get their children vaccinated at a trustworthy place.
Some parents (53%) even view the vaccine as a greater danger to their child’s health than COVID itself. The survey found that 67% of those whose children have previously tested positive for COVID believe this.