Metro Nashville Public Schools will still require all students to have up-to-date immunizations this year, and the district is hosting three back-to-school vaccination events at local middle schools, despite the firing of one of the state’s top vaccine officials.
The district is offering all required vaccines, plus the optional Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. The Tennessee Department of Health is also providing access to vaccination appointments, and parents can search for COVID-19 vaccines through VaccineFinder.
“We strongly encourage students to get vaccinated,” district spokesman Michael Cass said in an email.
For more than 100 years, schools in the U.S. have been requiring immunizations to prevent disease spread. Measles, chickenpox, hepatitis B and polio are all viruses that children currently get vaccinated against before school.
But Tennessee officials’ commitment to this long-held procedure has been questioned recently by its ousted vaccine official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who said the state was halting vaccination outreach efforts for teens and children. Among her claims has been that the state has placed a “moratorium” on childhood vaccination events in schools and halted outreach to adolescents and their parents.
The state Department of Health declined to comment. In a press release, the department said they will continue to provide and promote vaccination while evaluating “annual marketing efforts intended for parents.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that unvaccinated students and staff continue to wear masks and encourages schools to offer voluntary testing each week. The CDC also recommends that all students and drivers on buses wear masks.
Metro schools will not require masks in many situations when students return in August, but officials will continue to monitor public health data and orders from the local health department, says Cass.
In Tennessee, as of last week, about 13% of children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated.