A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel has recommended that COVID-19 vaccinations be added to childrens' regular schedule of immunizations, but it's states and localities that will decide whether to require the shots for school attendance. And it doesn't appear as though those decisions will be made anytime soon.
In an Oct. 20 statement on the recommendation, CDC said since COVID-19 vaccines first became available two years ago, 630 million doses have been administered. The advisory panel's recommendation to add COVID-19 vaccines to the suggested childhood vaccine schedule "represents another step in the nation’s recovery," the statement said.
Ahead of the panel's decision, the CDC had to debunk false narratives that the federal government was mandating COVID-19 vaccination for school attendance. School leaders may find themselves in similar situations of explaining what vaccines are required by their states and localities for school attendance versus what the CDC recommends for boosting immunity against diseases.
The 2023 interim COVID-19 vaccine schedule for children 6 months through 17 years shows a series of three shots spread out over 3 to 8 weeks depending on the vaccine brand. A recommended interim COVID-19 vaccine schedule was also released for adults.
"It’s important to note that there are no changes in COVID-19 vaccine policy, and today’s action simply helps streamline clinical guidance for healthcare providers by including all currently licensed, authorized and routinely recommended vaccines in one document," the CDC statement said.
State laws or policies, which take time to develop and approve, create the mandate for immunizations required for school attendance.
All 50 states have state policies requiring certain vaccines for students, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
While discussions about vaccine mandates for schools prior to the pandemic mostly focused on exemptions, the political and legal debates about COVID-19 vaccine mandates may mean policymakers will take their time deliberating on new requirements.
Efforts to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for school attendance for staff and students have largely been unsuccessful during the pandemic. In localities where vaccines are required, officials have pushed back dates for when those requirements would be enforced.
Earlier this year, the California Department of Public Health said it was delaying until at least July 2023 a COVID-19 vaccine school attendance requirement. And the District of Columbia City Council this week voted to delay until the 2023-24 school year a requirement that students be vaccinated against COVID-19.