MDCPS Alberto Carvalho speaking with students in a socially distanced lunchroom. Courtesy: Miami Dade County Public Schools Facebook.
While state officials are finalizing distribution plans of the first round of COVID-19 vaccines in the state, another discussion awaits in the hallway. What about children, teachers, and schools?
Florida is just weeks away from receiving the first shipment of the FDA emergency approved COVID-19 vaccines, and many are still wondering who will be first in line. While it’s clear that healthcare workers, including nurses and doctors, are expected to have first dibs, everyone after that is still up in the air.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has stood by his remarks since the announcement of a possible vaccine that vaccines would not be mandated or forced on the state’s residents.
Meanwhile, the situation in school systems all over the state remains a mystery.
In a virtual web meeting between Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and members of the parent-teacher association earlier this week, the pandemic and vaccine were key topics—and whether or not the vaccine will be made mandatory for students was discussed.
Carvalho told PTA members at the meeting that he is currently in talks with three companies about the feasibility of requiring vaccines for all students once there is enough.
The superintendent said the vaccine could be made mandatory as early as the next school year, with an option to receive it for summer classes.
“We’re beginning to get information about the criteria for immunization for COVID-19,” said Carvalho.
The exact number of vaccines designated for Florida is not exact, but state officials believe that Florida should have access to millions of dosages by the end of December. Gov. DeSantis has the final word on the order in which the vaccine will be distributed, and students are expected to be lower on the priority list because of the CDC’s data on the youth.
“I believe that more than likely, based on some conversations I’ve had with health officials, that guidance on immunization for coronavirus for children may not be a reality until the next school year. So we will go maybe through the summer months, will be an optional thing on the part of parents, families, but not mandatory,” Carvalho added. “I believe that if it ever becomes mandatory, it will not be this school year, it would be at the earliest for the following school year. And again, this is based on private conversations I’ve had with medical experts, just on the basis of what’s known at this point nationally.”
This news is to be taken with a grain of salt. Although it is not a certainty that the vaccine will be made mandatory, the option is still on the table.
One parent at the meeting, Fatima Chaiken, said, “I think that it’s 50/50. Some parents will be all for it. Some parents will probably not. It depends on when the vaccine comes out.”
Fatima went on to say she is “100% for it,” a sentiment that cannot be said for all parents.
“Can we predict from the adult data down to the children? And we don’t know the answer to that question,” said pediatrician Dr. Natalie Geary. The only issue she sees is the lack of proper clinical trials for children.
With thousands of students reporting back to school in the state’s largest school district, a lot of logistics would be involved in administering the vaccine effectively. Will everyone be forced to take it at the same time? Or will it be administered in waves? How about teachers? There are many questions to be asked, and for now, the only thing the school district can do is wait and see the data.
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Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.