Unvaccinated People Will Be Barred From Here, Starting Aug. 29

A new vaccine mandate is being enacted for certain individuals this month.

COVID has been spreading across the U.S. for the last two-and-a-half years, and a number of different protective measures have been enacted in that time. Last year, vaccine mandates were widely implemented in an attempt to boost vaccination rates across the country and curb virus transmission amid new highly contagious COVID variants. Popular companies like Google and Tyson Foods started requiring their employees to get vaccinated, and in major cities like New York and Washington, D.C., showing proof of vaccination became a prerequisite to enter many indoor spaces. Nowadays, however, these kinds of mandates are few and far between.

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In Jan. 2022, the Supreme Court struck down the federal vaccine mandate proposed by President Joe Biden. Then in February, big cities started dropping vaccine requirements as COVID cases started to come down from the heights they hit during Omicron's winter surge. Now, as the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a decline in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout the country, COVID vaccine mandates are rarer than ever—with some states even banning them from being enacted altogether, according to the National Academy for State Health Police (NASHP).

But at least one major city is preparing to enforce vaccinations for certain individuals this month. Students in D.C. who are 12 and older will be required to be vaccinated against COVID in order to attend school in the upcoming academic year, The Washington Post reported on July 31. According to the newspaper, the fall semester for the D.C. school system starts on Aug. 29.

"Our goal is that no child should miss a single day of school," Asad Bandealy, the chief of the D.C. Department of Health's Health Care Access Bureau, said during a July news conference at Mary's Center. "And that means we need to get started now."

According to MedStar Health, district law requires students in all D.C. schools—both public and private—to be fully compliant with vaccinations. But this is the first year in which the immunization requirements include the COVID vaccine for students 12 and older. "The law also requires schools to verify immunization certification for all students," the D.C. and Maryland-based healthcare provider explains on its website.

Students will have an additional 20-day grace period from the first day of school to be in compliance with the requirement before they are barred from attendance altogether, The Washington Post reported. After this period, unvaccinated students will be removed from class and their attendance will be marked as unexcused absences—and that could trigger truancy referrals.

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This vaccine mandate sets the nation's capital "at odds with most of the rest of the country, where youth vaccine mandates have so far failed to gain traction," according to The Washington Post. The only exception is New Orleans, which added the COVID vaccine to its list of required immunizations for children 5 and older in February, the newspaper reported.

Other major cities are largely just encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated before the school year or requiring vaccines for limited reasons—like New York City's public schools, which are mandating students be vaccinated in order to participate in certain activities.

Meanwhile, the White House is pushing vaccinations as an important back-to-school safety measure. "Every American age 6 months and over is eligible to get vaccinated, and everyone age 5 and over is eligible for a booster shot after completing their primary series," the Biden administration wrote in an Aug. 16 statement. "Getting vaccinated and staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations are the most important ways that we can minimize the most serious impacts that COVID-19 can have on our children, their teachers, and their school communities."

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