Whether or not a COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for students to return to school is a question that has been weighing heavily on the minds of many families. With the development and commencement of distribution for multiple vaccines, the horizon of school reopening comes progressively closer. As such, health and education officials are being confronted with the implications of vaccinations, including the seeming reluctance of a significant portion of the populace to get a vaccine that is so new and relatively unproven. Nevertheless, to completely leave distance learning behind, it is necessary to have a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine for returning to school.
At this time, the reluctance, particularly on the part of families, has some rationale. The vaccines have, so far, undergone minimal testing amongst youth. While existing vaccines, such as those for measles and polio, are required in all states, new vaccines are often more carefully tracked. School officials are concerned that, if they require the COVID-19 vaccine, it will further push away those who are worried about its effects.
That being said, there seem to be no feasible paths forward to a full return to in-person schooling without the requirement of vaccination. Without such a requirement, there would be a risk of spread, and with that would come a continuing sense of insecurity around all activities and interactions. One of the concerns with new COVID-19 vaccines is whether they solely prevent illness, or if they also prevent asymptomatic transmission; it is not yet known whether someone who is vaccinated could still infect someone who is unvaccinated. Therefore, it would be doubly important for everyone to be vaccinated.
The best path forward would be to have more extensive testing of the COVID-19 vaccines among minors to ensure their safety. After that, there would have to be an education campaign for educators and families in order for everyone to feel confident in it being mandated for students returning to schools.
This scenario is likely several months off, if not more, and information about vaccines for minors is still incomplete and somewhat nebulous. Even so, it appears clear at this time that if ever we want to return to campus, there must be a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for in-person learning.