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Did the CDC Mandate COVID Vaccines for School Children?

Image for article titled No, the CDC Cannot Mandate COVID Vaccines for Kids

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The CDC does not mandate vaccines for schoolchildren, a fact that anybody who pays attention to vaccine policy knows. Tucker Carlson, who has recently claimed the DCD will soon mandate children get a COVID vaccine before being allowed to attend school, either doesn’t understand how these things work, or understands entirely but enjoys lying (and baiting his audience). I’ll leave that distinction to others. In any case: he’s wrong.

Over the past few days, the rumor has been spreading: Supposedly the CDC recently had a meeting and passed a new rule that the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory for all public school students. The idea came from a “Fox News contributor,” Carlson amplified it, and it took off. But it’s very more social media (and mass media) hooey.

Who mandates vaccines for schoolchildren?

When children enter school, and when they reach certain grades, children are typically required to show proof of vaccination against several diseases. The concept of mandatory school vaccination does exist, yes.

But the details of such a policy are set, and enforced, by each state, as the CDC tweeted in response to Carlson’s clip. That means that the required vaccines vary from state to state, and are not determined by anyone at a federal level.

For example, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Virginia require the HPV vaccine for students entering seventh grade, but other states don’t require it at all. States also vary in their policies for who may be granted an exemption from the rules.

Currently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California and D.C. require a COVID vaccine for school entry. So far, no other states do.

What did the CDC do?

The grain of truth behind the rumor is that the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices (ACIP) is about to decide whether to put COVID-19 vaccines on the childhood vaccine schedule. That means that these vaccines are recommended for all eligible children.

Insurance companies are generally required to cover the full cost of any vaccines that appear on the recommended schedule. That’s why you can get your kids vaccinated for measles, rotavirus, and tetanus (among others) for free, with no hit to your deductible.

Recommended vaccines also are covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation program, meaning that the U.S. government can provide no-fault compensation to anyone who can provide evidence that they were injured by a childhood vaccine, without their having to file a lawsuit against the company who made the vaccine. (This would apply if, for example, your child had a severe allergic reaction after receiving their COVID vaccine.)

ACIP recently voted to include the COVID vaccines on the Vaccines for Children program, which provides recommended vaccines for free even to children not covered by insurance. Currently, COVID shots are available to everyone at no cost. The VFC program has some subtle differences from the current COVID vaccination program, which the CDC details here, but they’ve mostly to do with behind-the-scenes paperwork.

All that said, COVID vaccines are still a good idea. Children don’t get COVID as often as adults, but some do get it, and get very sick. And if you’re ever in doubt about what vaccines are required for schoolchildren, check with your state officials.