As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds COVID-19 vaccines to its routine immunization schedule for children and adults, at least 20 states have passed legislation or issued rules barring vaccine mandates to attend school.
The National Academy for State Health Policy, in an update this week, shows there are about two-dozen states that have barred COVID-19 vaccines from being included in mandates for schools and students. They include Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah, the website says.
To date, not a single state has passed legislation or implemented an order to mandate COVID-19 vaccines to attend class, according to the Academy, which updated its map of states on Feb. 6. But Washington, D.C, has a student COVID-19 vaccine mandate, although it was delayed until the start of the 2023–2024 school year after the D.C. City Council voted last November to do so.
The group has kept updates on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and bans on such mandates since the CDC has considered whether it would add those vaccines to its recommended child immunization schedule. While it’s only a recommendation, many states and municipalities rely on the CDC’s guidance to set policies.
Outside of the aforementioned states that have banned mandates for children, officials in other states, including California, have announced they would not require the shots to attend class. On Feb. 3, California’s Department of Public Health said “that the state will not require the COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance,” the website noted.
Laws in at least 31 states and the District of Columbia require the vaccines on the CDC schedules to be taken by children for school attendance, said the Policy, Practice, and Prevention Research Center at the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Public Health last year. Other states sometimes impose requirements that mostly align with the schedules.
Last year, when the CDC advisory panel voted to recommend adding the vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule, a number of governors had indicated they would not make them mandatory.
“Under my watch, there will be no COVID vaccine mandates for kids—period,” said Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa. “In fact, we signed a law that prevents it. It’s the parent’s decision, not the government’s.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis noted that some parents are concerned about the CDC’s guidelines, telling reporters there is a “fear” that schools would force shots on children. “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,” added.
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