Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center suggests people concerned about a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for school entry in Washington should continue to follow State Board of Health activity
Washington Policy Center
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee on vaccines approved adding COVID-19 vaccines to the agency’s recommended immunization schedules for both children and adults on Thursday. Many people are worried this means schools will now require COVID-19 shots for school children. That’s not how this works. The decision around the vaccine requirement for school entry stays more local.
Dr. Nirav Shah, a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told Rueters, “Adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the recommended childhood immunization schedule does not constitute a requirement that any child receive the vaccine.” He said the decision around school entrance for vaccines “rests where it did before, which is with the state level, the county level and at the municipal level.”
There are already vaccines on the schedule, such as seasonal flu shots, that are not required for school attendance in many places, Shah noted.
In April, the Washington State Board of Health (SBOH) decided not to add a COVID-19 vaccine requirement after an exploration of the idea. The SBOH took advice from a technical advisory group it assembled that recommended against the immunization requirement for school entry. Board members did reiterate support for COVID-19 vaccines and hoped for voluntary vaccination of school children.
Members of the advisory group expressed concern that the public health benefit that might be achieved through the requirement would be outweighed by the many downsides of such a rule. One of those downsides was putting schools in a position to have to police the requirement. There was also valid concern that not enough is known about COVID-19’s transmissibility or vaccine outcomes for children to justify a vaccination requirement. (Read more about the SBOH process here and here.)
People concerned about a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for school entry in Washington should continue to follow State Board of Health activity. The board could revisit the issue in the future.
Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.
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