Louisiana will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or file a waiver, to attend schools, nurseries and universities, under a pending health department rule that adds the disease to the state-mandated immunization schedule.
It’s unclear exactly when the rule will be enforced, though it only applies to age groups that have been fully approved by the Food & Drug Administration to get the jab. Children as young as 5 are currently eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, although only full FDA approval has been granted so far for ages 16 and over.
Louisiana’s Office of Public Health warned lawmakers of the proposed rule change on Sept. 20 when it published a “Notice of Intent” both online and in the Louisiana Register, a journal that provides access to legal notices from government agencies.
Under the state’s regulatory statutes, that notice set in motion a 30-day shot clock for the legislature to call a supervisory hearing, where they can change, approve or reject the proposed rule. Citizens can also submit comments or request a hearing during that period.
However, according to Aly Neel, a spokesperson for the health department, that term expired in October without any input or opposition from the public or requests for supervisory hearings.
Still, the chairman of the House Committee on Health & Welfare, State Representative Larry Bagley, said lawmakers plan to hold a hearing in December before the rule is passed.
Under state law, students must already be vaccinated against certain vaccine-preventable diseases before entering public and private K-12 schools, daycare centers, universities and colleges. The legislature delegates the responsibility for compiling that list to the state health department.
For example, to enter kindergarten, students must be vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, chickenpox, hepatitis B, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and rubella. One more round of injections is needed before going to 6th grade to boost immunity and prevent meningitis.
Still, Louisiana offers broad exemptions from those mandates. A student or guardian may submit a written dissent to opt out of the immunization requirement. Or they may provide a letter from a doctor stating that a particular vaccine is not recommended for medical reasons. The Department of Education even offers a stock exemption form online.
Bagley, a Stonewall Republican, said the waivers should provide comfort to those not interested in getting the photo.
“You just have to say, ‘No, I’m not taking it,'” Bagley said.
This is a story in development. Check back later for updates.