Amherst school district to require student COVID-19 vaccines

AMHERST, Mass. — All eligible students in Massachusetts’ Amherst Regional school district will be required to get a coronavirus vaccine that has full federal approval by Dec. 1 to continue attending classes, the school committee voted.

The Amherst Regional School Committee voted 7-0 at its meeting Tuesday to mandate vaccinations, The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported.

The vote came after the Amherst Board of Health on Sept. 9, based on a request from the public schools, added COVID-19 vaccines with full federal approval to the list of immunizations students are required to have. Medical and religious exemptions are allowed.

Amherst is believed to be the first district in the state to require its eligible students to get a COVID-19 vaccination. So far, the only coronavirus vaccine with full Food and Drug Administration approval is Pfizer’s, and only for people ages 16 and older.

Board member Peter Demling said the decision is about keeping both students and staff safe.

“I hope this pushes the conversation forward across the state,” he said.

The mandate applies mostly to students at Amherst Regional High School and Amherst Regional Middle School, which also serve children from the towns of Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Ruby Cain, the student representative to the committee, said students are supportive of the mandate.

Teenage vaccination rates in the four towns are already high, according to state data.