Virginia Department of Health will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines in public schools after petition – Community News
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Virginia Department of Health will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines in public schools after petition

The Virginia Department of Health said Monday it will not impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools.

In September, Kristen Calleja, a mother from Virginia, petitioned VDH officials to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for eligible students and staff at Commonwealth public schools. The petition received 15,308 responses: 14,301 were against, 847 were in favor and 16 were labeled irrelevant.

[Virginia mom files petition asking state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in schools]

Despite the great pressure, VDH responded to the petition, saying the agency has “no clear legal authority” to mandate the vaccine for employees.

However, the department does have the option to add a new vaccine requirement for students, but said federal health authorities have not added the COVID-19 vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule.

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It’s unclear if anything will come of the failed petition, but Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has publicly opposed mandating the gunshot during his campaign.

In a one-on-one interview, Youngkin told 10 News, “I encourage people to get the vaccine, but I respect your decision to make that decision and so this is a big difference.”

Below you will find VDH’s full response to the petition:

Multiple factors influence decisions to require pre-school vaccinations, including ACIP recommendations, tax considerations, feasibility of implementing the requirement(s), and administrative burden that may accompany such requirements.

With regard to the request to mandate vaccines for school workers, VDH has no clear legal authority to issue regulations for this population.

With regard to a mandate for students, ยง 32.1-46 of the Code of Virginia clearly provides the legal authority and VDH already promulgates the regulations for the immunization of school children. However, VDH has no legal authority to cancel the religious exemption.

At present, all vaccines required by the regulations for the immunization of schoolchildren are in accordance with the recommendations of ACIP, CDC, AAP and AAFP, with the exception of the flu and COVID-19. VDH has determined that requiring an annual flu vaccine for all children for daycare and/or school attendance would involve significant costs to VDH, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, and school systems and daycare centers. It would also be complicated to implement a school attendance requirement, as the new annual vaccine typically doesn’t become available until the end of August or September, coinciding with the start of the school year. COVID-19 has been added to the CDC immunization schedule webpage, but not yet added to Table 1, Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents 18 Years of Age or Under, United States, 2021.

With regard to the petition, in light of the lack of clear legal authority to implement vaccine mandates for school staff, no action is being taken regarding vaccine mandates for school staff.

Also on the petition, given the ongoing administrative, logistical and financial burden associated with flu, and the COVID-19 vaccine that has not yet been added to the vaccination schedule for adolescents aged 18 or under, no action is being taken because it covers student vaccine mandates.

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