Opinion: CDC decision on COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t equal school-entry requirement

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.

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

Elizabeth Hovde
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.

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

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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3 months ago

InformedChoiceWA reported on a a key WA State Board of Health meeting
WA BOH’s Vote Supports Option of Mandating Experimental Vaccines for Children”“The WA State Board of Health (BOH) yesterday voted to deny ICWA’s petition request that they adopt a new, permanent rule prohibiting adding to the day care or school requirements any Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) product or any licensed product formulation which has not yet completed Phase 3 clinical trials.
EUA products, and products which have not completed long term Phase 3 clinical trials are experimental.”

“Dr. Pendergrass said, “I do not want to be in the setting where I am preventing some future event from occurring.” He also stated that historically, there is a precedent for mandating EUA shots because the polio vaccine was required for school in the 1950’s just after the vaccines were developed. His statement was inaccurate and it did not support his stance. In fact, it did the opposite. First, EUA’s did not exist until 2004.

“In 2004, the Project BioShield Act (Public Law No. 108-276) gave the FDA Commissioner the authority to issue an EUA during a declared emergency “involving a heightened risk of attack on the public or U.S. military forces, or a significant potential to affect national security.”3 The authority allows the FDA, after careful evaluation, to authorize the use of unapproved or uncleared medical products, or unapproved or uncleared uses of approved or cleared medical products, following a determination and declaration of emergency.1 In other words, an EUA can allow for medical countermeasures (e.g., medicines, vaccines) to be used during the declared emergency “to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions” caused by biological and other agents when “no adequate, approved, and available alternatives” exist. 3″


Second, the rollout of the polio vaccines in the absence of adequate safety studies and oversight is one of the biggest blunders in vaccine history.

“The Cutter incident

On April 12, 1955 the government announced the first vaccine to protect kids against polio. Within days, labs had made thousands of lots of the vaccine. Batches made by one company, Cutter Labs, accidentally contained live polio virus and it caused an outbreak.

More than 200,000 children got the polio vaccine, but within days the government had to abandon the program. “Forty thousand kids got polio. Some had low levels, a couple hundred were left with paralysis, and about 10 died,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a pediatrician, distinguished professor, and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. The government suspended the vaccination program until it could determine what went wrong.

However, increased oversight failed to discover another problem with the polio vaccine. From 1955 to 1963, between 10% and 30% of polio vaccines were contaminated with simian virus 40 (SV40). “The way they would grow the virus was on monkey tissues. These rhesus macaques were imported from India, tens of thousands of them,” medical anthropologist S. Lochlann Jain said. “They were gang caged and in those conditions, the ones that didn’t die on the journey, many got sick, and the viruses spread quickly,” added Jain, who taught a history of vaccines course at Stanford and is working on a publication about the incident. Scientists wrongly thought the formaldehyde they used would kill the virus. “It was being transferred to millions of Americans,” Jain said.”


..”.Temple Lentz and Keith Grellner also agreed with Dr. Pendergrass about not wanting to tie the hands of future boards in regards to mandating experimental products.
State Chief Science Officer Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the Secretary of Health’s designee, agreed with Dr. Pendergrass on behalf of Secretary Shah, who is a board member…..

ICWA is dismayed and alarmed that the BOH believes their vote preserves an option for themselves and for future boards to be able to mandate experimental products (EUA) on children.” 

See the full report which also provides video of the meeting.

Last edited 3 months ago by Margaret
3 months ago
Reply to  Margaret

Thank you for your well researched post, Margaret.

3 months ago
Reply to  Sylvia

The research was done by InformedChoiceWa.org who submitted the petition to the WA Board of Health, and reported on the meeting. I just posted excerpts from their article, and the link for the full article, which includes video of the meeting.
As noted in the article, the members of the WA Board of Health are all appointed by Governor Inslee, including Temple Lentz(D) who is a current Clark County Councilor.

Last edited 3 months ago by Margaret
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