Poll: Should FCPS require COVID-19 vaccinations?

An FCPS employee at an Inova COVID-19 vaccine clinic from earlier this year (Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools)

The first day of school is less than a week away, and for many students, teachers, and parents, it’s coming with even more anxiety than usual.

For the first time since mid-March 2020, nearly all Fairfax County Public School students will attend in-person classes five days a week starting on Monday (Aug. 23).

With COVID-19 still in the air and students younger than 12 unable to get vaccinated, FCPS has an array of health protocols aimed at curbing the risk of infection, including an indoor mask requirement, outdoor classes and dining where possible, and diagnostic testing for people who display symptoms.

However, the school system is not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees or eligible students. Arlington Public Schools is the only Northern Virginia district to issue a vaccine requirement for staff so far, though the Alexandria City school board is expected to discuss the issue today (Thursday).

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, the union that represents FCPS educators and non-administrative staff, said earlier this week that it would support a mandate, and FCPS says it will “continue to consider all options that keep our staff and students safe.”

While many colleges and universities have issued vaccine mandates for students, legal and political concerns make it unlikely that any K-12 schools will take a similar stance, even though they already require other immunizations.

According to Fairfax County Health Department data, 78% of adolescents aged 12-17 and 65.6% of all Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“While mandatory vaccination is a policy decision and not a policy that the health department would be in charge of making, we do really support and urge everybody to get the information they need in order to make a positive decision to get vaccinated, which is really more important than ever with the Delta variant,” FCHD Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said during a virtual town hall on Monday (Aug. 26).

With the COVID-19 vaccines shown to be effective at preventing serious illness, albeit slightly less so against the Delta variant, should FCPS require the shots?

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