Getting Answers: Amherst schools preparing for mandatory COVID vaccine | News


AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — A first in western Mass. as the Amherst-Pelham Regional Public school district is now requiring students to get their COVID-19 shots by December 1. But right now, some age groups are excluded from that requirement.

“Basically on December 1, COVID-19, the fully authorized version will be no different than any other vaccine. It’s a requirement to attend school in Amherst,” Amherst-Pelham Superintendent Michael Morris said.

The vaccine mandate for Amherst Public Schools starts on December 1, but as of now, it’s only required for students 16 and older as the vaccine for 12 and older is not approved by the FDA, only for emergency use.

“It’s likely that the emergency use authorization will go away for 12 plus, this fall from what I understand, and then it would extend to 12 plus,” Morris said.

Morris tells Western Mass News he believes the Pfizer vaccine for 12 and older will get full authorization from the FDA before December 1. If that is the case, students 12 and older at Amherst Schools will be required to get their COVID-19 vaccine as well. We asked him the hypothetical, what if the approval comes a few days or weeks before December 1?

“If it really happens on November 29, we’ll work with families. We want kids in school. We want them in school safely,” Morris said.

Morris explained to us what would happen if parents decide not to have their child get the COVID vaccine.

“I guess like any other vaccine it is a requirement of attending our schools. So people could look at homeschool or other options. We do have medical and religious exemptions,” Morris said.

Morris tells us students can show proof of vaccination by showing their vaccination cards or through their doctors. He said most of their students who are eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated. But what if a student turns 16 after December 1? Morris said people should think ahead.

“We are notifying folks in our newsletter today around some of the details of that because 12 plus is likely to be fully FDA approved by then; we’re really encouraging people to think ahead on that front,” Morris said.

Morris adds school nurses will start making phone calls to parents starting next week.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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