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Thousands of Prince George's Kids Need Required Vaccines for School: Official

Prince George's health officials encourage students 12 and up to get the COVID-19 shot and say everyone should have other required back-to-school vaccinations

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Prince George’s County officials are encouraging kids to get up to date on required childhood immunizations and want eligible students age 12 and up to get their COVID-19 shots before heading back to school.

About 11,000 students are out of compliance with vaccine requirements, which is normal compared to other years, Diane Young, director of Family Health Services at the Prince George’s County Department of Health, said three weeks before the scheduled first day of school.

“If kids get vaccinated, they stay safe from harm and they can attend school,” Young said.

COVID-19 vaccines are not required by Prince George's schools, but Maryland requires childhood immunizations against diseases such as measles, hepatitis and meningitis unless there's a valid exemption. Here’s the full schedule of vaccination requirements for Maryland students.

“One of the things that may have happened during the pandemic is that families put off some of the routine vaccinations that are required for children,” Dr. Robin Wallin, assistant director for school health at the Fairfax County Health Department, said.

“As we approach the new school year, we’re very cognizant that many of these children need school-mandated vaccines,” Wallin said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is encouraged for eligible students, but not required. Pfizer’s two-dose shot has been approved for kids 12 and up.

Community transmission is high in Prince George's County, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When students return for the first day of school on Sept. 8, masks will be required for students, teachers and staff inside Prince George’s County Public Schools. 

The hope with coronavirus vaccinations is to cut down on COVID-19 cases and quarantines that pull kids out of class.

Schools CEO Monica Goldson said the vaccination rate among eligible students is still too low, at 50%, at the end of July.

But there isn’t extremely high interest in every part of the county. One COVID-19 vaccination in Prince George’s County was canceled due to low demand.

Springhill Lake Elementary was due to host the clinic on Tuesday, but registration was too low.

The Maryland Department of Health and Giant Pharmacy have planned three other free COVID-19 vaccine clinics, for Aug. 11 at Lewisdale Elementary and Aug. 19 and 30 at Mary Harris “Mother” Jones Elementary.

Free COVID-19 vaccinations are available throughout the D.C. area; here’s where to find them in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Young said that it’s important to remind parents that vaccinations are safe and important for public health.

The county will start offering vaccines on Aug. 16 at through wellness programs based at Bladensburg, Fairmont Heights Northwestern and Oxon Hill high schools. After Labor Day, there will be vaccine clinics on Saturdays, Young said.

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