CDC group recommends vaccinating children against COVID; ADH responds

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A CDC advisory committee has recommended that the COVID vaccine be added to the immunization schedule for children and adults. The 15-member commission did so unanimously on Thursday.

The decision to officially add the COVID vaccination to the schedule now goes to the CDC. It is expected that the Agency will adopt the recommendation.

During the annual meeting, doctors from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) wanted to make sure one thing was clear.

“Moving Covid-19 to the recommended immunization schedule does not affect which vaccines are required for school enrollment,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Local control is important. And we respect that the decision about school entry for vaccines remains where it is before, which is at the state, county and municipal level, if at all.”

Ebony Butler, a Jacksonville parent, hopes Arkansas and other states will leave it as a recommendation, not a requirement.

“I disagree. I think the COVID vaccine should be just like the flu vaccine where you get it if you want it,” Butler stated.

Arkansas lawmakers passed this recommendation in 2021 when the legislature passed Act 977. It prohibits the state from mandating a vaccine or immunization for COVID-19.

Our station has reached out to the Arkansas Department of Health for comment on the decision. Dr. Joel Tumlison, Arkansas Immunization Medical Director, said in a statement:

“ACIP’s addition of mRNA vaccines to the recommended childhood vaccination schedule is NOT binding. It does not trigger any state requirements for the vaccine, for school children or otherwise. It simply includes it in the recommended routine vaccines that doctors should give to children. Decision about whether a vaccine is needed for school enrollment is decided by the state. In Arkansas, it must be approved by the State Board of Health. As you mentioned, last year, an Arkansas law was passed that says that it will be in a minimum of 3 years from the full approval of the vaccine before the application could be made. And even then, the Board of Health would have to consider it and then make a decision on it.”

Dr. Tumlison also answered a question about what the Arkansas Department of Health does each year with the CDC recommended immunization schedule for children and adults. He said,

“We make sure that the vaccines we offer to both children and adults in our LHUs (local health units) or at events follow the recommended immunization schedule. All our LHUs are VFC (Vaccines For Children) program sites, so all VFC sites would do the same. Some years vaccine(s) will be added to the recommended schedule, which we will begin to administer. In other years, ACIP may remove a vaccine from the recommended immunization schedule. Regarding today’s decision by ACIP to include the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in the childhood immunization schedule, for there is not much practical difference now, as these vaccines are already recommended and given in our LHUs.But this move by ACIP was made to prepare for a situation in the future (probably sometime in 2023) when the US government will no longer pay for all vaccines against COVID and they will be introduced to a more normal process. This is a preparatory step for that possibility.”

Butler said she is uncomfortable with the COVID vaccine being added to what is required for public school children because she feels it is so new.

“A lot of that footage we’re getting is from decades ago,” Butler said. “I think those blows are enough.”

While some disagree with the CDC doctors, others believe that health professionals when they claim that these recommendations can prevent serious diseases.

ACID committee member, Dr. Matthew Daley, said: “The reason things are being added to the schedule is that we feel the benefits significantly outweigh the risks.”

One example of a vaccine that is on the list of immunization recommendations but is not mandatory everywhere is the 2006 HPV vaccine. Only a few states require it to attend public school.

Current vaccines required in Arkansas schools include DTap, HIB, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella, meningococcal ACWY, pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13), polio, TD (tetanus, diphtheria), Tdap (tetanus), Varicella ( chicken pox).

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