Though few people are talking about it anymore, a question raised over the past several years remains: will states require the COVID-19 vaccine for school-aged children?
The answer is that it depends on the state. A few states have already published their immunization requirements for school children for the 2023-24 school year, but most have not. An action the CDC took in early 2023 could mean that, once states do publish their vaccine requirements, some states will likely adopt a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
In late 2022, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) voted to add a COVID-19 vaccine to the recommended immunization schedules. This was made official when the CDC published its recommended schedule in early 2023. How each state will respond will become clear once the states all publish their immunization requirements for the 2023-24 school year.
Currently, only one jurisdiction statutorily requires immunization against COVID-19 for school children. In some states, their existing laws could make addition of a COVID-19 vaccine to the state mandates automatic. On the other end, some other states have passed laws legally banning schools from conditioning attendance on proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
ACIP Recommended Immunization Schedules
The FDA first gave official approval to a COVID-19 vaccine in August of 2021. A little over a year later, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to add COVID-19 to the recommended immunization schedules for children. Ultimately, the ACIP’s immunization recommendations are just that–recommendations. It is up to individual states whether to adopt COVID-19 vaccine requirements for school children, and the current laws of those states will play a big role.
Categories of state requirements
There are four general categories of how states’ laws treat ACIP recommendations and the COVID-19 vaccine for school children:
- States that ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates. As already mentioned, several states have legally banned some COVID-19 vaccine requirements. A few of these have set expiration dates on those bans. Additionally, some governors have also issued executive orders banning such mandates.
- States that recommend but do not require COVID-19 vaccination. These states do not specifically follow ACIP guidelines, but the state’s Department of Health (or equivalent agency) expressly recommends immunization against COVID-19. These laws could make it easier to enact a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Some people may even try to accuse parents of wrongdoing for opting-out.
- States that follow ACIP recommendations. Many states explicitly follow ACIP recommendations. Some states are required to follow ACIP guidelines by their statutes or administrative code. Others clearly follow ACIP even though not required. A few states also look to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), whose schedules are nearly identical to the CDC’s. In the absence of strong opposition or a change in law to the contrary, these states are expected to add a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations for school children.
- States that do not address the issue. Finally, the remaining states generally list the required vaccines in either their statutes or administrative code and mention neither ACIP guidelines nor COVID-19 vaccines. Many of these states mention ACIP guidelines, but only for administering dosage and timing of required immunizations. In these states, positive legislative or regulatory action would be necessary to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Issues not covered
Please note that this research specifically examines COVID-19 vaccine mandates as they relate to school children in each state. It does not address:
- Daycare immunization requirements,
- College immunization requirements,
- Other government COVID-19 vaccine requirements for any classification of adults (seniors, school employees, state workers, etc.), or
- Private COVID-19 vaccine requirements (such as businesses requiring vaccination for their employees or customers).
This research also does not address whether any of these mandates could apply to homeschoolers. If your state has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school children, consult our general vaccine mandates database to see whether it may apply to homeschoolers in your state.
COVID-19 legislation, rulemaking, and litigation is ongoing, and many states have yet to publish their immunization guidelines for the 2023-2024 school year. This research is to inform you as a parent to give you a better idea of what you might expect in your state soon. Be sure to visit our research on general vaccine mandates to understand how vaccine mandates may apply to homeschoolers in your state. Heritage Defense is committed to defending your parental right to make vaccination decisions for your own children.
If you are a member of Heritage Defense and still have questions after reviewing our Law & Policy page about COVID-19 Vaccine, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
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