White House says school vaccine mandate decision is up to local districts

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The White House on Thursday said decisions on vaccine mandates for students, teachers and other faculty are up to local school districts. 

During the White House press briefing Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki maintained that the Biden administration’s goal is to keep schools open and ensure that schools have the resources they need in order to do so. 

“The president’s goal is to defeat the virus,” Psaki said, noting that the administration is setting up a number of federal testing sites across the nation, and encouraging individuals who have not yet done so to get their booster shots. 

As for whether the Biden administration would consider implementing vaccine mandates for schools, Psaki deferred to local officials. 

Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Oct. 14, 2021.
(Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

“Those decisions related to schools will be up to school districts,” Psaki said, adding that “some have taken some steps, others have not.” 

The White House, this week, said the Department of Education has been working with school districts across the nation to provide resources, connect school officials with testing providers, and set up vaccine clinics and aid for pandemic-related mental health issues. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that children as young as 12 can now get booster shots of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. 

President Biden speaks while joining the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s call with the National Governors Association on Dec. 27, 2021.
(Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The decision came as the omicron variant rapidly spreads across the U.S. and complicates plans for students to return to classrooms following winter breaks. Booster shots previously were recommended for everyone age 16 and older. 

Elementary-aged children, ages 5 to 11, became eligible to receive a kid-sized shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in November. 

Fox News reported earlier this week that some school districts nationwide are implementing a vaccine mandate for student-athletes as COVID-19 cases surge across the country. Locations implementing a vaccine mandate for athletes include Chicago, Cambridge, New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Fairfax, and Washington, D.C. Some districts announced mandates for athletes last summer. 

Fox News’ Molly Line contributed to this report. 

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