Leading CDC panel votes to add COVID-19 vaccines to recommended immunizations for all Americans – paving the way for states to potentially MANDATE the shots for school attendance
- The recommendation guides doctors in determining when to administer shots
- The committee’s move does not constitute a mandate for school children
- Opponents worry a pediatric vaccine mandate could be on the horizon
A leading panel of experts recommended the CDC to add COVID-19 vaccines to the standard vaccine schedule for children aged six months and older.
Children six months and older as well as all adults should get fully vaccinated and boosted with Covid shots when they become eligible, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) said in a unanimous 15-0 vote Thursday.
The committee’s vote does not have an immediate effect and it is not binding.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have to follow its recommendation, though it would be unusual for it not to.
The move to schedule the vaccines does not constitute a mandate that children must get them, but opponents are arguing that it opens the door to this.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie said that the committee’s decision ‘will precipitate [Covid] vax mandates to attend schools and play sports in many states’.
Meanwhile, Dr Margery Smelkinson, an infectious disease scientist at the National Institutes of Health, said: ‘Anyone saying this won’t lead to a mandate hasn’t been paying attention.’
While it is common for schools to require vaccinations before a child can attend, states choose for themselves whether to make certain shots compulsory.
The flu and HPV vaccines for example are on the CDC’s schedule but not required at all public schools for attendance.
The committee meets annually to review and update the vaccination schedule, which is meant to help guide clinicians in determining when a child should receive different shots for preventable diseases such as polio and measles.
Children as young as six months old are encouraged to get vaccinated. The CDC has since authorized booster shots for children as young as five.
Physicians doubt that otherwise healthy children, who are at lower risk of severe illness than older adults, should get vaccinated.
ACIP members were conscious of criticisms similar to Rep Massie’s in the discussion Thursday.
‘We recognize that there is concern around this, but moving Covid to the recommended immunization schedule does not impact what vaccines are required for school entrance, if any,’ said Dr Nirav Shah, an ACIP member and director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Threat of mutant Covid strain looms
The concerning new strain, XBB, is another omicron spinoff.
It has sent cases soaring in Singapore where cases have doubled in the past two weeks.
The strain is able to resist some protection conferred through vaccines.
It has accumulated mutations in its receptor binding domain, a key part of the spike protein where antibodies dock and block infections.
It is unknown whether the strain is more virulent, or likely to cause severe disease or death.
Children are typically at much lower risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19 compared to older adults and have so far not been prioritized for vaccines.
The relatively low risk that Covid-19 poses to children has convinced some infectious disease experts that vaccines are not necessary to protect otherwise healthy kids.
Vaccine makers have not yet presented extensive real world evidence pointing to how well the pediatric shots perform.
‘This vaccine has (a) no convincing evidence it helps the 86% of kids who already had covid & (b) no evidence it will help kids in 2027 against whatever new strain comes,’ said Dr Vinay Prasad, a practicing hematologist – oncologist and health researcher at the University of California San Francisco.
Another elected official, Texas Republican Rep Chip Roy, also called the vaccine ‘unnecessary’ for healthy children, ‘especially when there are REAL concerns about the shot’s risks.’
Roy argued that the risk of adverse events such as myocarditis, a rare but severe condition that causes inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause chest pain and shortness of breath.
Most cases of myocarditis following vaccination have been in young men and teen boys are were typically mild.
The committee’s unanimous vote on Thursday follows the CDC’s decision last week to authorize bivalent booster shots for children as young as 5.
Booster shot uptake remains low among the youngest children, who are less vulnerable to severe infection than older Americans. The CDC recommends that children as young as five get a booster shot.
The CDC tracking shows that demand for shots is low across age groups.
The updated shots were designed specifically to target the Omicron variant and its offshoots.
But uptake of the bivalent booster remains low across age groups. Less than half of eligible Americans five and up have yet to even get a first booster shot.
Booster uptake last year swelled amid fears of a growing omicron wave but have since stabilized.