New vaccine mandate for winter and spring athletes

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Photo Courtesy of Marco Verch via Creative Commons

On May 10, the Food and Drug Administration extended the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to 12 – 15 year olds, adhering to the emergency use authorization process.

Montgomery County Public Schools announced that all student athletes must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate this winter and spring seasons. The mandate came following the Board of Education meeting held on Sept. 9, 2021. 

Starting Monday, Nov. 15, all student athletes who are eligible must show proof of full vaccination in order to play in an upcoming season. The only exception will be for a medical condition, verified by a certified healthcare professional. 

The winter and spring seasons consist of sports ranging from basketball and wrestling to swimming and lacrosse. All these sports are performed differently in a variety of locations but are all considered “higher risk” because they are either indoors or extremely close contact. Each sport may require additional personalized recommendations but MCPS believes the best way to combat the virus across the board is through vaccination.

Though MCPS encourages students to take safety precautions in the buildings and at all school sponsored events, the Covid-19 vaccine is not a requirement to attend school. This means there are still students in the county that are unvaccinated. 

The recent announcement has left a number of athletes feeling more comfortable, while others may feel less inclined to participate. “I think it just depends on people’s personal views on getting vaccinated,” Athletic Director Jon Freda said.

“I do feel safer now that more people are going to have to be vaccinated to play winter and spring sports,” senior Chris Michalopoulos, one of Richard Montgomery’s varsity basketball players, said. 

In addition, MCPS just announced that staff members, which include some coaches, can submit requests for religious exemptions to the vaccine. At this time, student athletes are not being given this option. 

Regardless of personal views, the vaccination policy is in place to keep everyone safe. “If, for whatever reason, students or their families don’t want to get vaccinated, then they won’t be able to participate,” said Freda.

Although this may affect the participation in winter and spring sports, “the county says that student and staff health and safety are their top priorities”. It also means some athletes will not feel as though their teammates could be putting them at higher risk. 

“It’s gonna add a sense of security… I think that it can be a good thing especially in reducing concerns related to COVID,” junior and track runner Anya Tahi said.