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New Orleans on Tuesday began a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchildren ages five and older, joining other large cities that have launched efforts to require schoolchildren to get the coronavirus vaccine.

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Students will not be turned away from New Orleans schools if they have not been vaccinated, officials say, but they will be required to apply for a waiver explaining why they are not being vaccinated against the virus.

Officials with the school system say they are implementing the mandate to encourage students to get vaccinated and to prevent any further outbreaks in the schools, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The vaccine is the best tool that we have to keep the pandemic at bay, and keep our schools open and our students learning,” said Dr. Henderson Lewis.

New Orleans joins other large school districts in trying to put COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place. Los Angeles announced that it would implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in January, but pushed back the plan until the fall. San Diego’s plan met with a court challenge.

Washington, D.C.’s COVID-19 school vaccination requirement is set to take effect in March.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a memo in the summer of 2021 allowing COVID-19 vaccines to be mandated in schools and other places under the emergency authorization granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.