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CDC paves way for California to require school COVID vaccines — but lawmakers have given up for now | News




Vaccination advisers at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted earlier this month to recommend that all children receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a decision that does not change California’s list of vaccines required for that children attend school.

Adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the CDC’s recommended vaccines for children is not a mandate for state school attendance requirements. Any additions to the California list must be made by the state legislature or state public health department. For the past 12 months, the Newsom administration and the legislature have separately tried to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for children to attend school, and both have failed.

Those involved in those efforts said they do not expect the Legislative Assembly to consider a term for children again next year unless there is a sharp increase in hospitalizations or deaths.

“Our goal should be to increase the vaccination rate,” said Sen. Richard Pan, a Democratic pediatrician from Sacramento, whose bill last session would have made the vaccine mandatory for children to attend school, with only a medical exemption. “We have work to do on raising awareness, making sure people have access and educating people about the vaccine.”

Since the federal government approved emergency vaccines for children, children have received the COVID-19 vaccine at far lower rates than adults. So far, 67% of 12 to 17 year olds have received the first round of vaccines, 38% of children aged 5 to 11 have received the first round and among those under 5, 5% have received the shots, according to state data.

The state Department of Public Health declined to say whether it plans to add the vaccine to the required list. Instead, the agency referred to its previous statement from April in an email: “…upon full FDA approval, CDPH will review recommendations from the Centers’ Immunization Practices Advisory Committee. for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians before considering a school vaccine requirement.”

The role of the Centers for Disease Control

He suggests that children 6 months and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine with injections approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or approved for emergency use.

“It’s a step in the right direction to protect public health, but I understand that there is a lot of concern about vaccines in general and the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr Alice Kuo, Professor and Head of the Pediatrics/Preventive Medicine Division. at UCLA. “It’s one step at a time.”

Dr. Naomi Bardach, professor of pediatrics at UCSF Medical School, said the CDC’s recommendation is a sign that COVID-19 is here to stay. She said adding the vaccine to the childhood schedule also normalizes the vaccine because pediatric practices that already use the CDC list as a guide will integrate the COVID-19 vaccine into patient care.

Under state law, children must receive a series of vaccines against 10 diseases to attend child care centers, family day care centers, preschool and kindergarten through 12th grade. If children are not vaccinated or are late according to the state schedule, they may be excluded from school until they receive their vaccinations.

Infants receive their first vaccine before the age of one hour and the injections continue until adolescence. Most vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control are required by California to attend school. These are: diphtheria, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b, measles, mumps, whooping cough (whooping cough), poliomyelitis, rubella, tetanus and varicella (varicella).

Prior to 2016, parents could refuse vaccines for their children through a personal belief exemption. Senator Pan authored the controversial law that eliminated the personal belief exemption for vaccines on the state list and left only medical exemptions that must be signed by a doctor. At that time, about 3% of new kindergarteners entered school with a personal belief exemption for some or all vaccines.

The law only applied to vaccines already listed for children. Any new vaccines added to the list in the future by the state Department of Public Health would provide personal belief and medical exemption options. If the Legislative Assembly voted to add a vaccine to the list, lawmakers would choose which exemptions to offer.

Vaccination rates against these childhood diseases have declined during the pandemic. In August, the Department of Public Health said one in eight children were not up to date on their vaccinations because they had skipped routine medical visits in the past two years.

Unsuccessful efforts

In October 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom said his administration would require the COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance for students 12 and older as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves vaccines for children. At the time, the mandate was to come into effect in July 2022. Since the Department of Public Health would have implemented the plan, the requirement would have allowed parents to opt out of the vaccine for their children out of personal conviction or medical exemptions.

In January 2022, Pan drafted a COVID-19 vaccine bill to go further, eliminating the option of a personal belief exemption.

In April, lacking the votes needed to pass the bill, Pan withdrew it and said the vaccine needed to be more accessible to families and vaccination rates needed to be higher before a mandate could succeed. On the same day, the Ministry of Public Health postponed until July 2023 its plan to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Monday, Pan said he did not expect the Legislative Assembly to respond any differently than last year to the idea of ​​a term. Pan will not lead the effort if there is one, as he is appointed in November.

Pan said if the state is considering adding the vaccine to the list, it needs to consider any recent developments regarding the vaccine and recalls, such as how many times it will be needed. If it is required multiple times, such as the flu vaccine, which is not required for school attendance, it could be a burden for schools to keep up with. Pan said the legislature has focused on vaccines that children receive serially and don’t have to take again, such as measles and chickenpox.

“It will depend on how he develops and the overall load,” Pan said.

Last year, Pan founded a Vaccine Legislative Task Force that has proposed numerous bills regarding COVID-19 and vaccines. Most of them have failed, including proposed mandates that all employees and children be vaccinated for work or school as well as a bill allowing teenagers to be vaccinated without consent. their parents.

“It’s been a tough year for vaccine legislation in the Legislature,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, author of the teen vaccination bill and a member of the task force. “I don’t know if that dynamic will change until next year, but it’s something to consider as it should be part of the school children’s regular schedule.”

Another member of the vaccine task force, San Diego Democratic Assemblyman Akilah Weber, said she was not considering legislation that would mandate the vaccine.

“At this time, I am not involved in any legislation that would make vaccination mandatory, but I am actively involved in education and outreach to encourage and provide community access for more parents to have their children vaccinated,” said Weber in an email.

In the past, proposed vaccine legislation has drawn protesters to the capital in droves. They disrupted hearings, yelled at lawmakers and even assaulted them. In one memorable protest, what looked like a menstrual cup full of blood was thrown over the gallery railing to the Senate floor below.

If the administration, or the legislature, pursues a vaccine demand again, critics are already planning to push back. They argue it should be a family decision and it raises questions about the breakthrough caseload – when a vaccinated person tests positive for coronavirus – efficacy and safety in children.

“The anti-vaxxers are very organized and very vocal even though they don’t represent the majority opinion,” said Senator Wiener. “But it’s a dynamic that we have to deal with and it’s true for a lot of politics and political issues.”