It has been five weeks since the Los Angeles Unified School District required all students 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the mandate, students need to have a first shot by Nov. 21 and a second one Dec. 19.
But so far, parents of unvaccinated students in Northeast L.A. aren’t exactly rushing to get shots for their kids.
From Sept. 9, when the vaccine mandate was issued, to Oct. 17, the latest data available as of this posting, the share of unvaccinated 12-to-17 year olds declined only modestly – from 44% to 37% — in the NELA communities of Eagle Rock, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Highland Park and Mount Washington.
A 37% unvaccinated rate works out to 4,049 12-to-17 year olds in NELA who have not yet had even one shot.
It’s important to note that not all of the 12-to-17 year-olds in NELA are in public schools and thus subject to the LAUSD mandate. But the population figures are a meaningful indicator of the task ahead to vaccinate young people.
It is also important to note that 63% of 12-to-17 year olds in NELA have had at least one shot as of Oct. 17, which works out to 6,821 vaccinated individuals. That is a relatively high vaccination rate but well short of the level needed to achieve herd immunity.
Jackie Goldberg, the LAUSD school board member for NELA, told the Boulevard Sentinel she expects an upsurge in shots as vaccination deadlines in November and December draw nearer. “Kids want to be in school and their parents will come around,” Goldberg said, citing the increase in shots in advance of an Oct. 15 vaccination deadline for teachers and school staff.
In NELA, the share of unvaccinated 12-to-17 year-olds varies by neighborhood.
Mount Washington (which includes parts of Cypress Park and Highland Park), currently has the highest share of unvaccinated 12-to-17 year olds, at 42%; followed by Highland Park at 41%; Elysian Valley at 37%; Glassell Park at 34% and Eagle Rock at 31%.
In the absence of universal vaccination, cases of COVID-19 keep appearing at local schools, though the number of new cases has been dropping.
According to the Oct. 20 daily update by LAUSD there were three active cases of COVID-19 at three schools in NELA on Oct. 19, including one apiece at Glassell Park Steam Magnet, Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park and Monte Vista Elementary in Highland Park. To compare, there were 21 active cases of COVID-19 at 10 schools in NELA on Sept. 8, the day before the LAUSD vaccine mandate was announced.
The drop in COVID-19 cases in schools is a testament to bolstered vaccination rates among teachers and school staff and to the majority of NELA students who have had at least one vaccine dose. Mask-wearing, air filtration and other safety protocols have also helped to reduce cases of COVID-19 in LAUSD.
Still, vaccination remains the best way to fight COVID-19 and currently, some 4,000 12-to-17 year olds in NELA remain unvaccinated.
T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.