NYC Department of Education needs to implement a vaccine mandate


Penn State Health | Flickr

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

Vaccine mandates are nothing new. We’ve been talking about them for going on two years now when it comes to traveling, shopping and eating out. Now is the time to talk about what is possibly the most controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate left — one for K-12 schools.

All people who work for the New York City government, private employers, the federal government, attend a CUNY or SUNY institution, want to eat indoors at restaurants or travel to certain countries must be fully vaccinated.

Students in K-12 public schools already have to be vaccinated if they participate in a “high-risk” sport through the Public School Athletic League, such as football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse, stunt, rugby and bowling. Bowling, while not considered a high-risk sport, takes place in bowling alleys outside of the school system, which already requires vaccination to enter.

Children who are in high-risk extracurricular activities at their schools are also already required to be vaccinated. High-risk extracurriculars include chorus, musical theater, dance, band or orchestra, marching band, cheerleading, step team and flag team.

While these mandates do exclude some public school students, many do fall under these guidelines and thus are already at least partially vaccinated.

“Most kids don’t necessarily participate in those activities,” former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the person responsible for the extracurricular and PSAL vaccine mandates, said. “That’s fine, but for those who do, we want to make sure they have that protection.”

The New York City Department of Education has to just rip off the metaphorical band-aid and set a full vaccination mandate for all students who attend public schools in the city.

According to the New York City Department of Health’s website, 52.9% of children ages five to 17 are fully vaccinated as of Feb. 12. Another 10.3% of children are partially vaccinated, meaning they have one of two doses.

That only leaves another 36.8% of five-to-17-year olds who need to get their first shot, in addition to the 10.3% who need to get a second shot.

If the DOE is concerned about upsetting students and families with a system-wide mandate, it needs to remember that the majority of families already made the right decision and started to get their children vaccinated.

It is not the DOE’s problem if parents get mad. What is the department’s problem is if the remaining 402,643 unvaccinated students in the public school system all get bad cases of COVID-19 because the DOE was too afraid of backlash to tell parents that they need to get their kids vaccinated.

Freedom of choice is important, but not more important than the science that tells us that these vaccines work and the ethical principle that one person’s rights stop where another person’s starts.

A safer tomorrow means a fully vaccinated city — and that includes kids.