When any policy debate takes place these days, a recurring refrain that we always hear is how this or that situation will disproportionately impact communities of color, Black communities, etc. This is true whether the debate involves gun control, bail reform, homelessness, or nearly anything else. But there’s one subject where most of the media has been notably absent from the battle. That would be the current debate over public school vaccine mandates like the one that will be in effect in Washington, D.C. when the kids head back to class this fall. Washington will require all students age 12 and higher to provide proof of vaccination if they want to attend classes in person. And as Fox News points out this week, while more than 85% of Washington students in that age group are already vaccinated, the figure is only 60% for Black students, so the impact on them will definitely be disproportionate.
Washington, D.C., students who are over 12 years old will have to take the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school, a decision that could fall hard on the city’s Black students.
“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 of the mandate, according to reporting from the Washington Post. “And that means we need to get started now.”
About 85% of Washington, D.C.’s student population between the ages of 12 and 15 is currently vaccinated against COVID-19, but only 60% of Black students in the same age range have received the shot. If the vaccine mandate is strictly enforced, it could cause more stress to minority communities that have already been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19 policies.
There is no longer any question about the crippling effect that the pandemic school closures had on children, both in terms of their academic achievements and their mental and emotional development and well-being. If nearly half of the Black students in Washington are sent back to remote learning while the rest of the children have full access to the classrooms, what will that do to these children?
Where are the cries of outrage from the usual activists we hear when any discussions of racial disparities arise? Why doesn’t CNN have a parade of experts showing up on their network each day to decry the systemic racism of the DC school district? How many of these Black and Hispanic children are they willing to leave behind?
You’ll note the quote in the excerpt above from the chief of the Health Care Access Bureau. She’s saying, “we need to get started now.” What she means by that is that the District needs to start vaccinating more of these teenagers. But that plan relies on the assumption that they all want to be vaccinated but were unable to for some reason. Does that make any sense to anyone?
The vaccines were approved for children 12 years and older more than a year ago, in May of 2021. And the vaccines were free. Television networks and radio programs were flooded with advertisements begging everyone to get their children vaccinated and providing information about where anyone could go. With one phone call in the DC area, someone would come to your home for free and vaccinate your child. If those parents wanted their kids to have the shots, they would have them by now.
But not all families were eager to do that for obvious reasons. Children are the least likely to transmit the disease and generally suffer the mildest symptoms if they contract it. With the odds in their favor, why not hold off until more research on the long-term effects of the vaccines has been done? It’s not an unreasonable question. But now the parents in the district will be put in a situation of being blackmailed into getting shots for their kids anyway. We already knew that vaccine hesitancy has been higher in Black communities since the beginning of the general availability of the shots. And now their children will pay the price by being kept out of the schools.
So come on, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and all the rest. Where is the moral outrage? Why are you not decrying this policy as the racist attack on minorities that it obviously is? We expected better of you.
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