For many kids, the end of summer means a trip to the doctor’s office to get vaccinated against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough—diseases that spread easily in school environments, so much so that state law requires Students need to be vaccinated against them.
Another disease that can easily spread in the school environment? COVID-19.
Currently, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children 12 years of age and older under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. But full authorization of vaccines could come within weeks, and trials are underway that could make the vaccine available to all children over the age of six months this year.
Can COVID-19 vaccines be added to the list of required shots for school-age children in Minnesota?
School and child care vaccination laws
of Minnesota school vaccination laws Names of vaccinations required, especially for children attending school or child care centers in the state. For kindergarten, they to includeMeasles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, mumps, hepatitis B and smallpox. Other vaccines are needed for older and younger children.
Children may be exempt if they have a notarized statement of a parent or guardian’s “sincerely held belief” against the child’s vaccinations. (This is a looser standard than many states’ And efforts to tighten it have been unsuccessful.) Children can even go to school without vaccination if a doctor signs a medical waiver indicating that the child should not be vaccinated for medical reasons or in some cases the child There is sufficient immunity, as shown in laboratory tests.
There are two ways COVID-19 vaccination can be added to the school immunization law. The first is that the Minnesota Legislature can change the law. Given the current divisional control of the legislature and loud voices, especially in the Republican Party, opposing such a mandate, it is unlikely.
Another way a COVID-19 vaccine may be required statewide is through the rule-making process, the way state agencies create specific policies to enforce laws created by the legislature.
Chris Ehrsman, MDH’s infectious disease director, said the Minnesota Department of Health was empowered to make rules on school and child care vaccination legislation in the early 2000s.
after this process, MDH will put forward a case for adding a vaccine to the requirements and then publish a request for public comments on the proposal. state register. It will also inform the public and key stakeholders by issuing media releases and notices to doctors, health care organizations, childcare centers and schools, said Patricia Segal Freeman, legal advisor and policy advisor at MDH.
With those comments, the department will begin to draft the rule and what is called the statement of necessity and rationale, which specifies the problem and explains how the rule is the proper solution to the problem. Then there will be another comment period, a hearing, and then finally a decision by an administrative law judge as to whether the rule should be adopted. If a judge approves the rule, the governor has 14 days to veto it or allow it to take effect.
The process is not quick. “It takes 12 to 18 months to go through this process. It is intended to ensure that we have sufficient public input,” Eresman said.
There may also be a third route by which COVID-19 vaccines may be needed for school children, at least in parts of Minnesota. school districts can Potentially requiring students to be vaccinated at school.
Still, the legal landscape for Minnesota districts is a bit unclear, said Jill Kruger, director of the Network for Public Health Law — Northern Territory.
at least one district in California, angel, has said that once the vaccine is fully authorized, and the courts will have the need for COVID-19 vaccination for students New York City retained the right To enforce vaccine requirements that go beyond state requirements. Minnesota law gives local health officials the authority to close schools or exclude students who haven’t been vaccinated against a particular disease during the outbreak, but Krueger said whether such exclusion would result from a specific outbreak. Was related or a permanent requirement can legally make a difference.
Childhood Vaccination Laws Have Been Around from the 1850s, when smallpox vaccines were first required in Massachusetts schools. Since then, they have been used as a means to ensure children – and a large proportion of the population overall – were protected from disease.
“School legislation is an effective tool from a public health standpoint because it ensures that a large proportion of our population is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases at an early age,” Ehrsmann said.
But not every vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control’s advisory committee for disease control is required in schools in Minnesota, Ehrsman explained. Take the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and guards against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.
The vaccine, recommended for young people before becoming sexually active, is not required in schools. In part, that’s because it’s controversial to some. But HPV is also not a disease that is easily transmitted in school settings to respiratory diseases such as measles and mumps, for example.
“You could easily argue for the value of this vaccine for that setting. However, right now things are really dire in terms of polarization as it pertains to vaccination. And so that’s another idea we have to think about. is: will we do more harm by working to add this to the law in terms of long-term impact,” Ehresmann said.
COVID-19 is clearly transmitted in schools, making the setting less of a problem. But vaccines, although considered safe and effective by the FDA, remain controversial.
a Survey The Kaiser Family Foundation found that most parents of school-aged children do not want their children to go back to school to need the vaccine. That group has 58 percent of parents with 12 to 17-year-olds who are already eligible for the vaccine.
Three-quarters of parents of vaccinated children wanted their children’s schools to be required to be vaccinated, while 83 percent of parents of unvaccinated children aged 12 to 17 opposed it.
However, most parents were supportive of requiring masks for unvaccinated people in schools; 63 percent of parents of school-age children supported mandatory masks for non-vaccination in schools.
Diane Peterson, director of vaccination projects at the Immunization Action Coalition, a St. Paul-based organization that educates the public about vaccinations, said she had not yet heard of any states mandating COVID-19 vaccines for school children Although some states have enacted laws Banning vaccine mandates.
Ehrsmann said the MDH is now focused on making sure people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine get it, rather than updating the school vaccination law. And there are a few reasons MDH might want to wait on adding a COVID-19 vaccine rule: first, the vaccines aren’t fully FDA-approved yet, and second, they’re not approved for young children. Third, MDH wants to see all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in children so that people have options. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is approved only for children under the age of 18.
But there are also considerations when it comes to people’s comfort level with vaccines.
“We have evidence that schools and childcare are settings where COVID transmission occurs, so it makes sense to ensure protection for children through vaccination in those settings,” Ehrsmann said. “However, there are a lot of considerations as it relates to multiple products and the timing of licenses and approvals, and there is highly polarization within the population right now. We want to make sure that we are doing what is in the best interest of public health. , but also wondering where the people are.”
As long as some of those issues are worked out, public opinion may be in a different place, Ehrsmann said, but in the meantime, no one should expect mandatory vaccines for the coming school year.