High school athletes and the athletic staff in Hawaii will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to participate in scholastic sports this year. The decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory was made by the Hawaii State Department of Education.
According to MaxPreps, the majority of Hawaii's high school football games were scheduled to kick off the season on Aug. 13, but were delayed until late September at the earliest to provide time for athletes and staff to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The Hawaii State Department of Education said in a press release that "all student-athletes, athletic staff and volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24, 2021, to participate in school-sanctioned athletic activities for the 2021-22 school year."
The Department of Education defines "full vaccination" as "two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine." The Department of Education notes that a person who received their "first shot by Aug. 20 and a second dose by Sept. 10 would be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24, under Pfizer's two-dose schedule."
Hawaii's DOE noted, "Students and adults may seek exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements for religious or medical reasons, with the appropriate documentation." People granted exemptions to the vaccine mandate are required to undergo a COVID-19 test twice a week.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine only for individuals ages 12 and up.
"We opened the new school year this week with in-person learning and our highest priority is to ensure all students can continue to attend school safely," Keith Hayashi, interim superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education, said. "This decision was not made lightly because we know the important role athletics play in a well-rounded education, but we cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our students and communities."
"We saw over the weekend the impact that just one potential case can have on sports teams, students and families," he continued. "The alternative is canceling the season outright, which we don't want to have to do; so we are implementing this layered plan that prioritizes vaccinations as the best way to protect against and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19."
Hawaii canceled all public high school leagues last fall due to the coronavirus pandemic and was reportedly one of only three states that didn't play high school football in the 2020-2021 season.
Hawaii reopened public schools for full in-person instruction earlier this month, but "masks must always be worn correctly and consistently by all students and staff when indoors."
According to the Hawaii Department of Health, over 61% of the population has been vaccinated, and there have been five COVID-19 deaths of those under the age of 17.
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