US Education Secretary Backs Mandatory Vaccine for Kids in School

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Miguel Cardona, the U.S. secretary of education, says he supports mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible children attending school.

“Not only do I support it, but I’m encouraging states to come up with a plan to make sure it happens,” he told Politico on Thursday as he toured schools in the Midwest. “I would like governors who hold those decisions to make those decisions now that are FDA-approved.”

He compared the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines to that of the measles vaccine.

“There’s a reason why we’re not talking about measles today,” Cardona said. “It was a required vaccination, and we put it behind us. So I do believe at this point, we need to be moving forward.”

Cardona on Thursday also expressed optimism that the FDA will authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children 5-11, a group that currently cannot be vaccinated.

“We know that vaccination eligibility for our elementary-aged students would be a game changer,” he said to U.S. News and World Report. “Not only would it help us keep our schools open and have less quarantining and closures, but it would also help parents breathe a lot easier and increase confidence in communities that their schools are safe.”

On Monday, Pfizer said clinical trials show its lower doses of its vaccine are safe for children as young as 5, creating the possibility the FDA will allow younger children to be vaccinated. The FDA has granted full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 16 and older and emergency use authorization for ages 12 through 15. Other vaccines available in the U.S. — those created by Moderna and Johnson and Johnson — are authorized for people 18 and up.

Some school districts are already requiring COVID vaccinations for teachers and other school workers, but not many districts have mandated the vaccines for students. On Sept. 9, the Los Angeles Unified School District approved such a requirement for students 12 and up attending in-person classes. The district is the second largest in the U.S.

As of last week, 54% of U.S. children 12-17 had gotten at least one dose of vaccine and 43% were fully vaccinated, according to a Sept. 15 news release from the American Academy of Pediatricians Rates vary from state to state: More than 60% have received at least one dose in 15 states and less than 40% in nine states.

Sources:

Politico: “Education secretary backs mandatory school Covid-19 vaccines.”

U.S. News and World Report: “Cardona: Vaccinating Younger Kids a ‘Game Changer’ for Schools.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Summary of data publicly reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

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