As vaccines become available to children ages 5 to 11, Mayor Muriel Bowser is working to open pop-up sites for the purposes of administering vaccines to children, as the D.C. Council works to pass legislation requiring vaccines for all eligible school-aged students. (AP Photo)

By Katia Pechenkina
Special to the AFRO

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine on Oct. 30 makes the District’s 46,000 children eligible for the shot, as the city is rolling out the plan for the vaccine distribution.

D.C. will initially receive approximately twenty-five thousand doses of the vaccine, according to Patrick Ashley, Senior Deputy Director at DC Health. The doses will be delivered on three different dates in accordance with the federal government. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the plan to establish 60 sites in the first week, with the expectation that that number would grow, Ashley said in a phone meeting with the Council. The sites will include pop-up vaccination clinics, hospitals, and certain pharmacies. 

He said that the City does not have as many community clinics set up as in spring because the demand is significantly less. 

“These sites will be limited for individuals 5 to 11 years of age only,” said Ashley. 

The City might expand the sites to other eligible age groups in the future. 

According to Ashley, the District is not planning to have school nurses to administer the vaccinations. 

The news about vaccine distribution comes in as the D.C. Council’s vaccine {bill} for students faces opposition from the local officials and some parents. The legislation introduced in early October by Council member Christina Henderson (At-Large) would require all eligible students to be vaccinated by Dec.15.

Many expressed concerns over the timeline and the implementation of the proposed mandate during the public hearing on the bill held on Oct. 27.

If passed, the mandate would be one of the first in the United States to require a COVID-19 shot for children to attend public, public charter, private, parochial and independent schools in the District.

Some witnesses were particularly concerned about the vaccine hesitancy contributing to keeping children away from school, while others spoke about the urgent need to add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of required immunizations to minimize the number of children needed to quarantine.

Paul Kihn, Deputy Mayor for Education, testifying on behalf of Bowser administration, expressed the support for vaccination, but had “concerns about the “timing and implementation of the mandate outlined in this bill.”

 He spoke in favor of giving parents time to learn about the vaccine once it’s approved. “We believe that rushing it (the vaccination) could result in undesirable outcomes as families feeling pressured to meet a new and urgent deadline may decide against it,” said Kihn.

Kihn was particularly concerned about the vaccination rates in Wards 7 and 8.

 In Ward 8, only 19 percent of children 12-15 years of age are fully vaccinated, compared to 89 percent in Ward 2, according to the District’s vaccination data.

 “We cannot afford to have more students out of the classroom — falling further behind,” said Kihn.

 “We must do all we can to keep our students safe and in school,” said Nikki D’Angelo, a parent of a kindergartner and former DC Charter school teacher, who testified on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform DC.

 She expressed concerns on how the {bill} would be implemented if enacted. “We do not want to exacerbate the inequities for public school students by closing the school doors for students who are not vaccinated, particularly when they do not have much of a say when it comes to their health,” said D’Angelo.

 “We need more students vaccinated. Having students continuingly going into quarantine is really disruptive, and we’ve had enough educational disruption. It’s really hard on schools, it’s hard on students,” said  Policy Director at Children’s Law Center Sharra Greer.

Claire Boogaard, primary care pediatrician and the medical director at the COVID-19 Vaccine Program at the Children’s National Hospital expressed her support for vaccinating elementary school children.

She said that the hospital will be sending a mobile unit to elementary schools in Wards 7 and 8 to administer the vaccine, as well as offering the vaccine at their hospital and ambulatory and primary care locations and through other mass vaccine events. 

The legislation needs seven votes to pass, although the Council could consider using emergency legislation to speed up the process of passing the law, which would require nine votes.

According to the FDA, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is “90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11.”

This vaccine is smaller in dose and packaged differently than the adult one. Children will need two doses administered three weeks apart to be fully vaccinated. 

 For all the updates on the information about the vaccine rollout in the District visit

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