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White House Plans a New Push to Get Students Vaccinated

Young teen getting vaccinated.

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Key Takeaways

  • The Biden administration launched a new initiative to try to increase vaccination rates in students across the country.
  • The initiative recruits pediatricians, school officials, and influencers for help.
  • Infectious disease experts say it’s unclear how much this will move the needle, but are hopeful it will help.

As schools across the country gear up for in-person learning this fall, the Biden administration announced a new push to get students vaccinated against COVID-19. The initiative launched on August 5 and includes targeted methods to promote vaccination in school-aged children.

During a press conference to announce the initiative, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urged state and local officials to do what they can to protect students from COVID-19 and the fallout of potential outbreaks.

“Don’t be the reason why schools are interrupted,” he said. “Kids have suffered enough. Let's do what we know works. Let's do what we know works across the country. Politics doesn't have a role in this. Educators know what to do.”

Currently, children aged 12 and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. Those under the age of 12 will not be eligible until the vaccine receives an emergency use authorization for younger age groups from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The initiative builds on the administration’s “Return to School Roadmap” that’s designed to help support students, schools, educators, and communities as they return to in-person schooling. It also comes as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to rise, despite hitting a low in early summer.

What This Means For You

The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to stop the spread of COVID-19. Expect to see more requests in the coming weeks from your child’s (if they're 12 or older) school and their pediatrician to get them vaccinated against the virus. You can make a vaccine appointment here.

What the Initiative Includes

The initiative includes four major efforts by the administration. Infectious disease experts are hopeful this initiative could help increase vaccinations in younger Americans.

Incorporating COVID-19 Vaccines Into Physicals for Student-Athletes

Several sports and medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), are urging medical providers to ask about their patients’ COVID-19 vaccine status during sports physicals.

They will also offer to give the vaccine, where it’s available. AAP has issued revised forms for doctors, parents, and student-athletes that can document COVID-19 vaccination.

“This action will help elevate the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as a key part of safe competitive play,” the initiative reads.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Verywell that incorporating COVID-19 vaccines into sports physicals can hopefully help normalize them. “The more routine we make COVID vaccination, the more people will have it done,” he says. “This is also something that should be done with adults.”

Sending Pediatricians to Back to School Nights

 The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is asking its local PTAs and parent leaders to host “community conversations” about getting vaccinated at back-to-school parent meetings, the initiative says. Local pediatricians will be a part of these meetings so that parents can have their questions answered by doctors.

“I do think enlisting pediatricians to make COVID vaccination a routine part of back to school activities is something that will increase vaccination rates,” Adalja says. “We know that parents trust their pediatrician much more than pundits on television telling them to vaccinate their children.”

Providing Schools and Colleges With More Resources for Pop-up Vaccine Clinics

The initiative is asking school districts across the country to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic in the next few weeks, with help from pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program.  

Schools will get additional resources from the administration, including a detailed guide for hosting school-based clinics, template letters, text messages for district and school officials to use, and resources for teachers to use to discuss the vaccine with students and parents.

Officials have also released a “Vax to School” college checklist with ways that colleges and universities can increase awareness and access to the vaccine.

Launching a Back-to-School “Week of Action”

The back-to-school “week of action” will run from August 7 through 15, under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The week of action will ask school districts, students, teachers, national organizations, local government leaders, businesses, social media influencers, celebrities, and volunteers to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

More than 90 youth-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and schools have committed to hosting more than 200 vaccination events, focused on vaccination drives.

Recruiting celebrities and influencers to get the word out about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine may be a big help, Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Verywell.

“We live in a society that is dominated by celebrities and young people pay a lot of attention to them,” he points out. “Hopefully, this might convince more young people to get vaccinated.”

Overall, doctors say it’s difficult to predict just how much these initiatives will raise vaccination rates in the country, but they’re hopeful. “I welcome anything new that can be done to increase vaccinations,” Watkins says. “I hope these efforts are successful.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. U.S. Department of Education. Return to School Roadmap.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in Number of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US Reported to CDC, by State/Territory. Updated August 6, 2021.