Washington State Board of Health considers making COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for students

WASHINGTON — The Washington State Board of Health is considering making the COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for all school students.

Since the first shots were made available, health officials have maintained the message that we must vaccinate our way out of this pandemic. But should the COVID-19 vaccine be required for kids to go to school?

That question is currently being debated by the state’s new technical advisory group.

Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, chief science officer with the Washington State Department of Health is a co-chair of the group.

“After we consider all the science and data and talk about it and find out sort of what the latest evidence is, we then make a recommendation to the state board of health and then it is up to them to further debate, discuss and then decide,” said Kwan-Gett.

He teamed up with Chris Reykdal, Washington state’s superintendent of public instruction during a recent online panel, who said: “I would not be surprised that we get something more definitive about this in the middle of summer as we anticipate the school year, but I do not expect any kind of requirements this school year.”

Reykdal said 65% of high schoolers are currently vaccinated against COVID-19. For middle school students it’s 57%, and 30% for elementary school-age kids.

Because vaccinations have become a divisive topic, Reykdal is advising patience and to let the advisory group do the work.

“It’s important that we all get out of the way, let the experts do their work and make a recommendation one way or the other, and honor that based on the science they come up with,” Reykdal said.