Virginia Health Department will not mandate COVID-19 vaccine for students at this timeDecember 13, 2021
The Virginia Department of Health will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students or public school employees at this time, according to an agency statement in regard to an online petition.
Kristen Calleja, a mother who has a daughter in a public school, filed an online petition with the agency, which was posted on the state’s regulatory town hall website. The petition received more than 15,000 comments with nearly 95% opposed to the proposal and slightly more than 5% in favor of it.
The agency took no action on the petition, which means current policies will stay in effect.
In response to the petition, the agency noted the ACIP, CDC, AAP, AAFP and CDC all recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five and older. However, the agency also said the CDC has not added COVID-19 vaccination to its Table 1 “Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger” list of vaccines.
“Multiple factors influence decisions to require immunizations for school attendance including ACIP recommendations, fiscal considerations, feasibility of implementing the requirement(s), and administrative burdens that may be associated with such requirements,” the agency wrote in response. “…Given the continued administrative, logistical, and financial burdens related to … the COVID-19 vaccine not yet being added to the Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger, No Action is being taken as it relates to vaccine mandates for students.”
There are currently 15 vaccines required for students to attend school. However, the agency noted it does not mandate any vaccines for public school employees. According to the agency, it does not have the statutory authority to impose these mandates on employees and therefore cannot act on that request either. Richmond Public Schools imposed its own mandate for employee COVID-19 vaccination, but then halted enforcement of the mandate after resignations and a high number of vacancies.
In her petition, Calleja said because some students are not getting vaccinated against the virus and schools are being disrupted from infections, possible infections due to symptoms and the quarantine rules for students who are exposed to the virus. She added students should have the right to go to school without the risk of being infected with COVID-19 or having their education disrupted.
Many of the opposing comments said the vaccine should remain voluntary and argued there is not enough evidence for the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Some also said there should be a religious exemption if any vaccine were to be imposed.
Slightly less than one-fourth of Virginia children aged five through 11 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia, but numbers are higher for older children. Nearly 69% of children aged 12 through 15 have received at least one dose and more than 72% of children aged 16 and 17 have received at least one dose.
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