Editorial: mandate vaccines for students

Measles, mumps, chickenpox, Hepatitis, HPV: these are all viruses and diseases FCPS students are required to be immunized against. We should add to this list COVID-19.

Last month, Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation, became one of the first school divisions to announce a vaccine requirement for all students age 12 and up. With Coronavirus infections soaring in the region across all age groups, and the first reported Fairfax County death of someone under age 18 to COVID-19, FCPS should follow suit and require middle and high school students to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

Over the last century, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of vaccine mandates for contagious diseases, both in schools and in public places. President Joe Biden has required companies with at least 100 employees to require vaccination, a mandate affecting some 80 million working Americans.

Vaccines are the reason we no longer fear smallpox, or polio, or measles, or rubella, or tetanus.

The science is clear: vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel in our long twilight fight against this virus. We can only defeat COVID-19 if all Americans get vaccinated, and that includes students. FCPS has required teachers and administrative staff to be vaccinated. But the fact of the matter is that unvaccinated students pose a threat even to the vaccinated.

It’s likely that school districts like FCPS will take the more shy approach of waiting out the virus before adding the COVID vaccine to their list of required immunizations. But that would be too little too late. We cannot afford to be timid or slow. Now is the time to act and protect students, teachers, and the general public.