Vaccines mandated for Philly Public League athletes

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A baseball player from Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School makes a catch during a game in the 2021 season. Starting Dec. 18, Philadelphia Public League student athletes will be required to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 to participate in interscholastic sports. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Scholastic athletes will need to be fully vaccinated to participate in high school sports in the Philadelphia Public League.

The School District of Philadelphia announced vaccine requirements on Oct. 29 for the upcoming winter and spring seasons. Students participating in interscholastic sports for the remainder of the school year will need to show proof of full vaccination or other approved medical or religious exemptions.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health and well-being of students and staff has been our top priority,” Superintendent William Hite said. “Requiring student athletes to get fully vaccinated will reduce the need to quarantine teams, which will also prevent the cancellation of games, practices and potentially entire seasons.”

According to the district, the decision was made based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and other sports and health organizations, stating that participation in close contact sports can put student athletes at increased risks for getting and spreading COVID-19. 

Deadlines for vaccinations for winter sports of basketball, bowling, cheerleading, indoor track, swimming and wrestling is Dec. 18. The spring sports deadline for badminton, baseball, lacrosse, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball is March 1. Students are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after a single dose vaccine. 

“Vaccines are a very effective way to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and we believe our student athletes will continue to do their part to protect themselves and their teammates from COVID-19 infection by getting vaccinated,” said School District of Philadelphia Medical Officer Barbara Klock, M.D. “A vaccinated team will prevent cancellations of practices, games and potentially whole seasons. We want to keep our players on the courts and fields and this is the way to achieve that.”

Until vaccine deadlines, student athletes will continue to be tested two times a week. The School District will host two information sessions to address questions or concerns about the new requirement. Meetings will be held on Nov. 4 and Nov. 9, from 5-6 p.m. 

A list of upcoming free COVID-19 vaccine clinics can be found at https://www.philasd.org/studenthealth/covid-vax/.

Additionally, students can receive the vaccine at healthcare clinics, pharmacies and other locations throughout the city. Information can be found by visiting the City of Philadelphia’s website or www.vaccines.gov.