This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a non-profit public education news organization. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters.
The New York chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics “unequivocally support” mandating COVID vaccines for students once the injection is fully federally approved for those under 16.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an “emergency use authorization” of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12-15 — meaning those kids can receive that vaccine, but it hasn’t received full federal approval yet. authorities. Pfizer has asked the FDA to approve its vaccine for children ages 5-11, with a decision expected around Halloween, according to reports.
Although Pfizer injections are fully approved for people 16 and older, the pediatricians believe that it is too difficult to mandate one group of students first, because they share a building with younger peers.
“It is imperative that we take steps now to protect as many children as possible from COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Warren Seigel, president of the New York State American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement Tuesday. “As the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and FDA continue to test and approve immunization for younger children, we have an obligation to get the vaccine to those children to protect them from infection and serious illness.”
The medical association, which represents about 5,000 pediatricians, pediatric subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists statewide, also opposes religious or philosophical waivers for such a vaccination requirement. The larger American Academy of Pediatrics has not yet taken a stance on mandating student photos.
For now, until the shots are fully approved by the federal government, the New York-based group recommends that eligible children be vaccinated.
Not Unheard of
Mandating students’ COVID vaccine would not be unprecedented. The state of California plans to make such a requirement once a vaccine is fully approved for children, though there is one major caveat: Parents can opt out of their children based on their “personal beliefs.” But what that means is not clearly defined.
Government Kathy Hochul said last month she is “willing to consider anything” when asked whether she would mandate COVID vaccines for children.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed no support for a student mandate, saying on WNYC last month “it’s not on the table yet,” pointing to an increasing number of children aged 12-17 who are getting their chance as the city ramps up its efforts to to encourage vaccinations.
“I don’t want to risk having a child or a family that isn’t quite there yet being banned from school,” he said.
Education department officials did not disclose the percentage of public school children vaccinated, but they did say that as of last week, 74% of all children aged 12-17 living in the five boroughs had received at least one dose.
New York City students are already required to get multiple vaccines to attend school, including diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, poliovirus, measles-mumps-rubella, varicella, hepatitis B, the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) booster, and meningococcal conjugate. All children under the age of 5 who are enrolled in daycare or pre-K should receive the flu vaccine.
Still, the COVID vaccine requirements for students are sure to spark protests from parents who oppose the shots for a variety of reasons.
During a 2019 measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County, state lawmakers passed a law that would remove religious reasons as an exemption for students to take the required vaccines. In response, parents filed a lawsuit to block the law, but a state judge upheld it, declaring it was in the state’s best interest to protect itself against the disease, lohud.com reported at the time.
Last week, a vaccine requirement went into effect for New York City public school staffers, forcing those who refused to be vaccinated to go on unpaid leave.
As a result of the mandate, about 95% of education department employees had at least one dose as of last week, and officials said employees continue to get their shots. The mandate has faced multiple legal challenges, which have so far failed in court.
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