Republican governors throughout the nation are rushing to assure parents that young children will not be required to get COVID vaccines despite a looming, likely CDC decision to put the jab on a list of immunizations recommended for schoolchildren.
Mixed signals, panic and anger followed Thursday’s unanimous decision by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to advise the CDC to add the COVID vaccine to the recommended immunization schedule for people including children as young as 6 months. While some states have adopted the federal recommendations through their own state and local health agencies, they retain the right to determine what vaccines are required for schoolchildren.
“COVID-19 mandates should be in our rear-view mirror,” Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, who was elected a year ago on a wave of parental activism, said in a statement. “The decision to vaccinate a child against COVID-19 is for Virginia parents to make about what’s best for them and their family. We will not adhere to these CDC mandates. In Virginia, parents matter.”
COVID-19 mandates should be in our rear view mirror. The decision to vaccinate a child against COVID-19 is for Virginia parents to make about what’s best for them and their family. We will not adhere to these @CDCgov mandates.
In Virginia, parents matter.
— Governor Glenn Youngkin (@GovernorVA) October 21, 2022
The CDC is widely expected to affirm the panel’s recommendation and put the COVID vaccination on the schedule with other vaccines that have been thoroughly tested and in wide use for decades. Youngkin is one of at least 20 governors who have spoken out in recent days to assure worried parents that the COVID vaccine, which the CDC already recommends for children as young as 5, will not become a requirement for attending public school.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose state bucked the economically crippling pandemic shutdowns and who has been a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, likewise assured his constituents that COVID jabs will not be mandatory.
“I know a lot of parents are concerned about that because if that’s on the immunization schedule, the fear is that schools could potentially mandate your child to get a COVID shot, even if that’s not something that you want to do,” DeSantis said. “So I just want to let everyone be clear. You know, as long as I’m around and as long as I’m kicking and screaming there will be no Covid shot mandates for your kids. That is your decision to make as a parent.”
One example of a vaccine being added to the recommended schedule, but not being widely adopted by states is the HPV vaccine. Although it was added to the schedule in 2006, only Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., require it for school-age boys and girls, and Virginia requires it for girls.
“Moving Covid-19 to the recommended immunization schedule does not impact what vaccines are required for school entrance, if any,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the advisory board, said at Thursday’s meeting. “Local control matters. And we honor that the decision around school entrance for vaccines rests where it did before, which is with the state level, the county level, and at the municipal level if it exists at all.”
Critics say young children are not in substantial danger of contracting serious cases of COVID and may in fact be more at risk from the mRNA vaccines themselves, which have been linked to myocarditis, or heart inflammation. And the recent revelation from a Pfizer executive that the vaccine was never tested to see if it prevented the spread of COVID has undermined the idea that children should be vaccinated in order to prevent them from infecting adults.
“I’ve always said mandates are the wrong approach, & TN has led in pushing back on federal COVID vaccine requirements,” Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee tweeted. “Thanks to our work with the General Assembly, TN families won’t be impacted by today’s CDC vote. We’ll continue to stand for TN children & for personal freedom.”
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said no mandatory COVID vaccines will be coming to her state’s public schools.
“As a mother and a grandmother, I will not allow this government overreach into our families’ personal decisions,” Norm tweeted. “And as Governor, I will do everything in my power to fight against this for our kids.”
Other GOP governors rushing to assured voters and parents that the pending CDC decision will not affect their kids included Kay Ivey, of Alabama; Asa Hutchinson, of Arkansas; Brian Kemp, of Georgia; Brad Little, of Idaho; Kim Reynolds, of Iowa; Mike Parson, of Missouri; Greg Gianforte, of Montana; Mike DeWine, of Ohio; Kevin Stitt, of Oklahoma; Henry McMaster, of South Carolina; Spencer Cox, of Utah; and Mark Gordon, of Wyoming.
The National Academy for State Health Policy lists 20 states that have already banned the COVID vaccines from being included in school mandates, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.