Nearly 6,000 Philadelphia School District students will be excluded from classes if they don’t receive state-mandated vaccinations by Nov. 2, but school sites are opening soon to provide shots.
Pennsylvania law requires students to be immunized to participate in school.
“While COVID-19 has changed many things in our lives, and we have been in a digital learning environment for several months, school aged immunization requirements have not gone away,” Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a news conference Wednesday announcing the district was partnering with CVS to provide shot clinics at 12 city schools.
Even if students do not return to school buildings this year, the district must exclude those who lack vaccinations unless a state exemption is filed with children’s schools for families who have medical, religious, or philosophical objections to vaccination.
Children are supposed to have vaccines to be permitted to start the school year, but the deadline for vaccination was extended to Nov. 2 because of the pandemic.
School nurses have worked to reduce the number of unvaccinated children from 9,000 at the beginning of the school year to 5,900 now, the superintendent said, reaching out to families with phone calls, letters, and other communications to stress the importance of vaccines and the state mandate.
Fewer children are being vaccinated during the pandemic; immunizations in children have fallen 20%, federal data show.
COVID-19 has complicated the vaccine picture for some, said Jeffrey Bullock, CVS pharmacy district leader.
“We realize that some settings that usually may provide this service may not offer them this season because of the challenges related to the pandemic,” said Bullock.
Twelve city schools will be open Wednesdays and Saturdays from Oct. 31 to Nov. 21 for children to get shots. Families must make appointments for shots, which will be administered by CVS pharmacists; only a student, their parent or guardian, the pharmacist, and the school nurse can be present; and masks must be worn. Shots will be given in a 10-by-10-foot space to permit for social distancing.
If families make appointments before Nov. 2, their children will not be excluded from school, even if the shots are administered after that date.
Karyn Lynch, the district’s chief of student support services, said the district and Philadelphia Public Health Department will work with uninsured families to get insurance or find ways to cover the cost of the vaccines. Those with insurance are encouraged to check with their providers to determine co-pay costs, if any.
The schools where shots will be available are: Feltonville Arts and Sciences, Motivation High School, Northeast High, Roberto Clemente Middle School, Roosevelt Elementary, South Philadelphia High School, West Philadelphia High School, Mastbaum High School, Mayfair Elementary, William Dick Elementary, Frankford High School, and George Washington High School.