- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2022

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are taking steps to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines remain free for children and considering whether to add them to routine schedules, though they cannot mandate the shots in schools.

Whether to require kids to take a particular vaccine for school attendance is solely up to the states, federal and state officials clarified amid an uproar over what the CDC’s votes this week could mean.

The CDC panel voted Wednesday to add the shots to the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC), a welfare program that offers the shots at no cost. The panel will discuss Thursday if they should be added to the list of routine childhood immunizations as of January 2023.

“Regardless of what [the CDC] votes tomorrow on whether COVID-19 vax are added to routine child immunizations - nothing changes in FL,” Florida Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo tweeted Wednesday. “Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis, COVID mandates are NOT allowed in FL, NOT pushed into schools, & I continue to recommend against them for healthy kids.”

Federal and state officials decided to weigh in after conservative circles warned about looming mandates.

“The CDC is about to add the Covid vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule, which would make the vax mandatory for kids to attend school,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson tweeted.

It is possible that states, especially in blue ones, might follow the CDC’s lead and mandate the shots for schools if they are added to the routine list.

But that remains to be seen, and the CDC cannot compel the requirement.

For instance, the CDC panel in 2006 recommended that adolescents be vaccinated against human papillomavirus or HPV. Yet few states require it for school attendance, and places like Arizona have passed laws forbidding an HPV mandate.

“The CDC does NOT and can NOT make vaccines mandatory to attend school. This authority lies with the states (I was a State Health Commissoner before I was Surgeon General, so I would know),” tweeted former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who served in the Trump administration. “Anyone saying otherwise is mistaken or lying.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra also felt the need to weigh in at midweek.

“The meeting of CDC’s independent advisory group of experts is focused on ensuring access to free COVID vaccines for children — just as we have provided free access to other vaccines for children; it is not about vaccination requirements. Any indication otherwise is untrue.”

Any states that decide to impose new requirements would likely not do so until the 2023-2024 school year.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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