One in three states has already prohibited COVID-19 vaccine mandates in schools — even before the FDA has fully approved vaccines for children.
Why it matters: The Biden administration hoped to rely on schools as a “trusted messenger” in support of coronavirus vaccines, but schools have become a political battleground as the Omicron variant roars across the U.S.
The big picture: The laws passed to date take different approaches, but the result is that schools in 17 states cannot require COVID-19 vaccines, according to the latest data compiled by the National Academy for State Health Policy.
For some states, that’s the case even as schools expect students to receive other recommended childhood vaccinations like measles, polio and chickenpox.What we’re watching: The issue of vaccinations in schools is set to dominate the agendas as legislatures resume their 2022 sessions.
New Hampshire is taking up dueling bills: a Democratic measure requiring COVID vaccinations in both K-12 schools and colleges, and a Republican bill specifically prohibiting them.Pennsylvania and Missouri lawmakers also are considering bans.The other side: California, Louisiana and the District of Columbia have imposed K-12 student vaccine mandates, to take effect once a COVID vaccine receives full FDA approval for a student’s age group.
The Los Angeles Unified School District — the first major district in the U.S. to call for such a mandate — delayed enforcement due to a lack of good alternatives for students who don’t comply. Still, almost 90% of those students had complied three months after it was announced.Flashback: The Pfizer COVID vaccine was first OK’d for use under an emergency use authorization, which allows the use of unapproved medical products, including vaccines, during public health emergencies.
That vaccine later received full approval for those 16 and older and remains available under an EUA for children ages 5-15.In December, Pfizer submitted a request for full approval for their vaccine in children 12-15.What they’re saying: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a former school principal, last month told BuzzFeed the Democratic Party does “not yet” have a compelling message on schools in the age of COVID.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), meanwhile, is pushing legislation at the federal level that would block schools from requiring students to get COVID vaccines.