State Superintendent says any future vaccine mandate for students will be ‘statewide’

Oct 14, 2021, 12:16 PM | Updated: 12:39 pm
students, vaccine...
James Mitchell, 12, receives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

According to health officials, there have been COVID outbreaks in Washington schools and that has led hundreds of students across the state to quarantine. It has also forced some school closures.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has said that parents should be prepared for more closures this year, but he does not expect a complete shutdown of all schools.

“What we’ve been trying to say to folks is we’re still the middle of the pandemic and people need to be prepared for all the twists and turns we’ve already experienced,” he explained on KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “We’ve got a million plus kids back in school. It’s going really well, but it’s super hard. A lot of contact tracing, exhausted staff with teaching and they’re going through all these public health metrics. And there are some places where local health jurisdictions have said we’ve got too many cases in the classroom and maybe they’ve shut the classroom down for seven days, or 10 days, or 14 days.”

“Our message is we don’t expect any of that stuff, but everyone should be prepared in case there is something in your classroom that would cause your student to be out for a week or two,” he added. “But so far it’s going pretty darn well”

‘Signs of improvement’ for COVID in Washington, with concern for school-age kids

As far as a vaccine mandate for students, Reykdal says it could be expected in the next year but it won’t happen until there is full federal approval of a COVID vaccine for kids. He made it clear that it will not be a district decision.

“We’re going to take a statewide approach on this,” Reykdal said. “It isn’t going to be a district by district decision. What I have continued to tell the governor and public health officials — and I’ve been very public about — is this needs to go through the process that it would go through for any kid vaccine requirement.”

“We have lots of vaccines that are required of our students in the state,” he noted. “And we’ve been doing it for decades with really high compliance by parents, or they have an exemption process.”

For COVID-19 vaccines to be added to that requirement, Reykdal says it will take “full federal approval, not just emergency” authorization. That means it goes through a federal panel, and then goes through a process in each of the 50 states by the state Board of Health.

“My message is get on with it,” Reykdal said. “Expedite that. Still go through it so that it’s medical professionals, and it’s doctors, and it’s public health experts ultimately recommending this and it’s not an executive order. But that’s where I’m at.”

“I think they will do that,” he said. “I think it’s going to take quite a bit of time. So I still do not anticipate a student vaccine requirement this year. I do think people should be prepared for that next year, that it would go on the list with the other vaccine requirements that our students comply with.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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State Superintendent says any future vaccine mandate for students will be ‘statewide’