President Joe Biden called on school districts Thursday to host pop-up clinics in order to get more children 12 and older vaccinated against COVID-19, part of his administration’s new push to increase vaccinations as the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads.
The president also directed pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to prioritize children 12 and older for vaccinations, and also to work with school districts to host vaccination clinics.
And Biden also said the federal government will reimburse small- and medium-sized businesses that offer paid leave to employees to get their children and family members, as well as themselves, vaccinated.
“Parents, get your children vaccinated. You do it for so many other things right now,” Biden said in a speech announcing these and other measures.
“We can and we must open schools this fall full time,” the president also said. “It’s better for our children’s mental and emotional well-being. And we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open.”
The Biden administration’s push to increase the number of vaccinations comes as the Delta variant of the virus is imperiling efforts to put the country back on a stable footing. The variant has also intensified worries that the upcoming school year will be disrupted just like the last two were.
On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that all students, visitors, and staff should wear masks in schools, regardless of their vaccination status. That reversed earlier guidance from the CDC that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks indoors. Fewer than a third of children ages 12 to 15 have been fully vaccinated as of late July, according to the CDC, while just under 40 percent of those ages 16 and 17 are fully vaccinated.
Masking can present particular challenges for some school leaders that have found it hard if not impossible to settle on a strategy that pleases everyone.
There are many logistical concerns for schools that consider hosting vaccination clinics. However, the district for Anchorage, Alaska has developed a strategy. Schools are also attempting to address families’ fears about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Biden administration previously used the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to energize efforts to vaccinate teachers and other educators. Biden announced Thursday that almost 90 percent of educators and school staff are vaccinated.
Other measures the president announced July 29 include a call for state and local governments to offer a $100 incentive to get people vaccinated, and a directive for the Department of Defense to explore how to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military.
“We need to get more people vaccinated,” Biden said, adding later, “We are not out of the woods yet.”