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Take the shot? Schools explore vaccine mandates for student-athletes

Aallyah Wright, on

Published in News & Features

And in areas with high community transmission — which is everywhere now — the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that high-risk sports or extracurricular activities be virtual or canceled unless all participants are fully vaccinated.

Sports considered high risk for transmission include close-contact activities such as football, dance, wrestling and cheerleading.

Some parents, however, view the vaccine requirement as an infringement on their rights, said Marsha Lessard, president of Virginia Freedom Keepers, a nonprofit group that says it is opposed to all medical mandates.

Residents protested outside the Loudoun County administration building earlier this month. Elsewhere, critics have expressed concerns about vaccine side effects, though serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines are exceedingly rare.

“These are private decisions that need to be made between patients and providers,” Lessard said in a statement. “Legislators, who have no knowledge of a person's unique bio make up and circumstances, have no place forcing medical decisions on them.”

Public schools have long required that parents vaccinate their children against a whole host of diseases before enrolling them in school.


Kim Putens, a mother of a 12th grader in Fairfax County schools, said she wanted her son to make his own decision, although she emphasized that mandates for student-athletes were nonsensical to her because those children are usually active and fit. Putens’ son, a lacrosse and golf player, decided not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, she said.

“When it comes to student-athletes, number one, they're young. And number two, they're probably in the best shape of their lives,” Putens told Stateline.

But young people can transmit COVID-19 to more vulnerable older people. And although they are much less likely to die or be hospitalized from COVID-19, some children have gotten seriously ill. Between July and September, nearly 500 children died from COVID-19, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, which relies on data from 45 states.

In 49 states and the District of Columbia, children up to 19 years old represented between 0% and .25% of all COVID-19-related deaths as of Sept. 16, according to the report. During the week of Sept. 16, nearly 226,000 children tested positive for COVID-19, the third-highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic.


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