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Schools fear dropouts will surge as result of pandemic; parents rush to get shots for kids

Schools fear dropouts will surge as result of pandemic; parents rush to get shots for kids

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U.S. educators are doing everything they can to track down high school students who stopped showing up to classes and to help them get the credits needed to graduate, amid an anticipated surge in the country's dropout rate during the coronavirus pandemic.

There isn't data available yet on how the pandemic has affected the nation's overall dropout rate — 2019 is the last year for which it is available — and many school officials say it's too early to know how many students who stopped logging on for distance learning don't plan to return. But soaring numbers of students who are failing classes or are chronically absent have experts fearing the worst, and schools have been busy tracking down wayward seniors through social media, knocking on their doors, assigning staff to help them make up for lost time and, in some cases, even relaxing graduation requirements.

Parents, schools and vaccine clinics rushed to begin inoculating younger adolescents Tuesday after U.S. regulators endorsed Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12, a decision seen as a breakthrough in allowing classroom instruction to resume safely around the country.

A handful of cities started offering shots to children ages 12 to 15 less than a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave the vaccine emergency use authorization for that age group. Most communities were waiting for a federal advisory committee that meets Wednesday to sign off on the move, while anxious families called clinics and pharmacies to ask about the soonest appointments.

Meanwhile, fewer American adults are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine than just a few months ago. But questions about side effects and how the shots were tested still hold some people back. That’s according to a new poll that highlights the challenges at a pivotal moment in the U.S. vaccination campaign.

President Joe Biden highlighted new programs from ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to provide free rides to and from vaccination sites, as the pace of shots nationally declines and he looks to meet his July Fourth inoculation targets. He meets virtually with a bipartisan group of governors to share best practices for encouraging Americans to get shots.

Also today

  • While the U.S., France and others are calling for suspending patents on COVID-19 vaccines, experts at UNESCO are quietly working on a more ambitious plan: a new global system for sharing scientific knowledge that would outlast the current pandemic.
  • Europe’s leading human rights body is warning that threats to democratic rights and personal freedoms have worsened during the pandemic, with some governments using health restrictions as a pretext to advance undemocratic political agendas.
  • Medicare will require nursing homes to report COVID-19 vaccination rates for residents and staff, in what officials hope will be an incentive for facilities to keep giving shots even as the pandemic eases.

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