DOE Delays Start of Sports Season, Institutes Vaccine Mandate
* Updated August 4, 1:44 PM
Anyone who wants to participate in school-sponsored sports across Hawai´i must be vaccinated, or be relegated permanently to the sidelines.
The Hawai‘i State Department of Education announced Wednesday, Aug. 4 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. Full vaccination is defined as two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.
In the meantime, due to the state’s high positivity rate, the department is delaying the start of the fall athletic season until Sept. 24 to allow for anyone unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated to get inoculated.
“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,” interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi 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.”
The DOE said that the vaccination requirement recognizes that participation in extracurricular athletic programs is a privilege and can increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19, which could negatively impact an individual’s health and education. A release from the department also said it recognizes the important role vaccinations play in protecting against and reducing the risk of disease transmission.
Students and staff who get an initial COVID vaccine dose by Aug. 20 can be fully vaccinated by the Sept. 24 deadline.
- By Aug. 20, 2021, proof of full vaccination or administration of the first and/or second vaccination dose must be submitted to the school’s principal in order to initially qualify to participate in school-sanctioned athletic activities.
- By Sept. 24, 2021, student-athletes and athletic staff and volunteers will be required to provide proof of full vaccination prior to participation in school-sanctioned athletic activities.
Timeline scenario for the Pfizer vaccine, which has emergency use authorization for adolescents 12 and older and requires two shots 21 days apart. (The Moderna vaccine is recommended for people aged 18 years and older, and requires two shots 28 days apart.)
Any individual who is not fully vaccinated by this date will not be allowed to participate in athletics at any point this year.
Students and adults may seek exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements for religious or medical reasons, with the appropriate documentation. Medical exemptions must be verified in writing by a licensed physician. If an exemption is granted, the individual is allowed to participate in athletics but will be required to submit to twice-weekly COVID-19 tests.
Schools are sending a letter home Wednesday with details for parents.