Fairfax County Public Schools announced earlier this week they will require their student athletes to provide proof of full vaccination before they are allowed to compete for the remainder of the school year.
According to the FCPS website, beginning Nov. 8 all athletes who are participating in Virginia High School league-affiliated sports during the fall and spring must have proof of vaccination for any activity that requires a physical. This edict will also cover activities such as dance team and step team as well as out of season practices and workouts.
“Vaccinating our students is a critical step in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and minimizing any disruption to learning. The majority of pauses to instruction for our high school students come as a result of exposure during athletic activities, which the Virginia Department of Education classifies as a high-risk activity. These pauses impact participation in activities and in-person learning while the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) investigates and determines close contacts and next steps,” said Superintendent Scott Brabrand.
FCPS announced that the decision to create this requirement is supported by a dozen sports and medical organizations that urged the incorporation of the vaccine into physicals for student athletes. These organizations include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.
FCPS Director of Student Activities and Athletics Bill Curran’s office announced that next week a “frequently asked questions” section would be added to the athletics page to further inform the public on the specifics of the policy. Some of the questions the FAQ page will answer includes issues such as whether they’ll honor religious and medical objections to the vaccine, and what accommodations will be made for students who are too young to get the vaccine.
Fairfax County has been experiencing a rise in reported coronavirus cases, the County recently posted new numbers on their Twitter account reporting that 240 new cases of contracting the virus have been recorded as of Aug. 31.
Fairfax had also posted their vaccination numbers for the same time frame as of Aug. 31, according to that post 78.7 percent of the county’s 18 and over population have received at least one dose of vaccine while 66.5 percent of the entire population of the county has reported to have had at least on dose of vaccine. The county also reports that 60.2 percent of residents have had both doses of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines or the single dose Johnson & Johnson.
The announcement made by FCPS comes a week after an announcement by the county of the approval of a new coronavirus vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA had recently approved of a vaccine created by Pfizer-BioNTech for persons aged 16 and older. The vaccine which will now be marketed under the name “Comirnaty” was already available under emergency use authorization for individuals aged 12 to 15 years old and for a third dose for immunocompromised individuals.
“Today’s news is yet another reaffirmation that vaccines are safe and effective,” stated Jeff McKay, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman. “Though all three COVID vaccines are approved for emergency use, the FDA’s official approval of Pfizer’s vaccine is good news for our community. We have been distributing Pfizer since day one and have plenty on hand for those who would like one. Anyone who is not vaccinated, or who was waiting for this FDA action, should get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.”
One issue regarding the vaccine that may directly concern young athletes has been the increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis reported after the use of mRNA vaccines developed to fight the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control have reported increased cases of these heart ailments since April 2021 particularly in male adolescents and young adults aged 16 years or older.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, symptoms of the inflammation include shortness of breath, chest pains, a decreased ability to exercise, and an irregular heartbeat. The inflammation is often associated with Pericarditis which is an inflammation of the pericardium, the fibrous sac which surrounds the heart.
The FDA’s study of the new vaccines has observed a high risk of the inflammations in males aged 12 to 17, but short-term data from the study found that most of the people were able to resolve the symptoms with conservative medical treatment and only some have needed intensive care support to deal with the symptoms. Potential long-term issues have not been recorded yet and are currently being observed in the public in studies currently scheduled to run until 2023.