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New Orleans will be the first major school district to mandate COVID vaccinations

As school systems across the U.S. struggle to keep classrooms open amid the pandemic, New Orleans is set to become the nation’s first major district to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 and up, though state regulations will allow parents to opt out easily.

Ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, many schools in the city have been holding vaccination events, including one at KIPP Believe school.

One by one, dozens of children presented their signed permission slips, pushed up the sleeves of their pale yellow school uniform shirts and — often wincing, but rarely with tears — received a shot. Then they got candy.

Some said they had loved ones who had gotten the coronavirus and wanted to do what they could to protect their families. Others said their parents decided. Eight-year-old Nyla Carey had talked to her mother.

“She said that the COVID shot was to protect you. And so now I want to be brave,” the third-grader said before going back to class.

Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis said the requirement, announced in December in the district of nearly 46,000 students, won’t lead to youngsters being kicked out of school come Tuesday.

Waivers for those opposed to vaccination are easy to obtain under state regulations, and schools will work with students who aren’t inoculated, he said.

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