Likely that Washington schools will eventually require students to get COVID vaccine

Jan 8, 2022, 7:45 AM | Updated: Jan 10, 2022, 7:34 am

COVID vaccine students...

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Could the COVID-19 vaccine soon join the list of requirements for children to attend school in Washington? According to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, it’s likely more a question of when than if.

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Currently, schools require students to be vaccinated against Hepatitis-B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox, with exceptions carved out for those who have approved religious or health reasons. In 2019, the state Legislature passed a bill removing the exemption for personal and philosophical reasons for the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

The decision to expand that list falls to the state Board of Health, and as Reykdal told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show, that’s a definite possibility for the COVID-19 vaccine in the near future.

“If they conclude through their rigorous process that it should be a mandatory vaccine added to the existing schedule, I 100% support that,” he said. “I think they will get there, and I will support that for next school year.”

That’s part of a process that involves research into clinical trials for the vaccine, as well as outreach to families and members of the community.

“These deliberations are always about actually observing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of children with the vaccine, and when that also has a positive outcome, then you’ve seen, historically, state boards of health — including in our state — say, ‘now we’re going to make this a mandatory vaccine to attend school,'” Reykdal described.

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That said, he also clarified that he would not be involved with the decision himself, leaving it instead to the state’s public health leaders.

“I’m never going to recommend that for my role — I’m not a public health expert. I don’t think the governor should recommend that from his role,” Reykdal said. “Let it go to the state Board of Health.”

The Washington State Department of Health reports that 20.6% of children ages 5-11 in Washington are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Among 12-15 year-olds in Washington, 51.2% are fully vaccinated and 59.2% of all 16-17 year-olds are fully vaccinated.

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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Likely that Washington schools will eventually require students to get COVID vaccine