By Eliza Holland and Nikki Johnson

Most Covid restrictions in the U.S. have long since ended, but the school districts in New Orleans and the District of Columbia are mandating Covid vaccines for children to attend school in person this fall. In the capital, the mandate applies to students 12 and older and requires a booster in addition to the initial two-shot course, while in the Crescent City it kicks in at age 5 and requires only two shots. In neither city are exceptions made for kids who have immunity from prior infection, which provides good protection against severe illness.

These mandates raise serious questions about racial inequity. In Washington, 36% of children 12 to 15 and 43% of 16- and 17-year-olds have received three shots of a Covid vaccine. For black children, those rates are only 23% and 31%, respectively. Roughly 60% of school enrollment is black. In New Orleans, 77% of public-school children are black and 52.5% of children 5 to 17 have completed their Covid vaccine series. (New Orleans doesn’t break the numbers down by race.)



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