COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Colorado children unlikely

Coloradans ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to be vaccinated against coronavirus, but the state Department of Health and school districts are in no hurry to require shots to go to school.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment is “unlikely” to require COVID-19 vaccines for K-12 students before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves Pfizer’s shots for children, a spokesman for the agency said in an email.

Schools have required certain vaccines for students for decades, and public health experts said a mandate could help increase enrollment among families who are hesitant about the shots.

The debate over whether to impose COVID-19 vaccines on school children is still in its infancy – California is the first state to require shots at schools – even though Colorado has a patchwork of requirements for adults in certain professions. For example, healthcare professionals are required to get shots.

And people attending large indoor events, such as concerts and bars, in six Denver metro counties must also present proof of immunization.[cq comment=”cq” ]

School districts, including Jeffco Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District, said they are reluctant to require the vaccines without a directive from state or local public health departments.

“We take our guidance from our state and county health departments and we would not require vaccines unless the state or Tri-County Health Department mandated students to receive the vaccine,” said Abbe Smith, spokeswoman for the Cherry Creek School District in a statement. .

A spokesman for Denver Public Schools did not directly respond to whether they would consider demanding the shots. Instead, spokesman Will Jones said the district is working with Denver Health to offer the vaccines to students and families.

“At this time, we are focused on helping get as many students vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said in an email.

Children and teens are experiencing higher rates of coronavirus infections than they did earlier in the pandemic, as Colorado is experiencing an increase in cases that are on the verge of exceeding the state hospital system.

Colorado public health officials have a goal of immunizing at least half of the state’s 479,895 children ages 5 to 11 by the end of January. So far, just under 82,000 Coloradans in the age group have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Ministry of Health.

Children are less likely to experience serious illness, but it is still possible for them to be hospitalized. They are also at risk of developing a rare condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or MIS-C that can damage the heart and other organs after an infection. They may also develop persistent symptoms in what is known as prolonged COVID.

School vaccine mandates have existed in the United States since at least 1855, when the state of Massachusetts required students to be vaccinated against smallpox. Colorado already requires students to get shots which protects against diseases such as chickenpox, measles and hepatitis B unless they have a dispensation.

School mandates are mostly done at the state level, and public health experts said they expect to see a patchwork of COVID-19 vaccine policies across the country.

“It’s not a new concept,” said Dr. William Moss, Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

But, he said, he expects setbacks from parents about the school’s requirements for COVID-19 vaccines, especially since they are still under emergency use approval from the FDA.

By waiting until the agency fully approves the shots, government officials will give people more time to observe how the vaccine works in children and give public health officials time to build trust in families, Moss said.

“School vaccine mandates have been a bit under the radar for a long time and they have been in place for 100 years or so, but this is a very politicized vaccine,” he said.

In most states, including Colorado, the National Board of Health is able to add more vaccines to their lists of school vaccination requirements. So there is a solid legal basis for government officials to require COVID-19 vaccines for school children, said Daniel Goldberg, a public health law expert at the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities.

“Can they do it: absolutely,” he said. “Will they do it?”

He shrugged.

Right now, the demand for COVID-19 vaccines is driven by parents who really want to get their children vaccinated. This has created a situation where the demand for the shot exceeds the supply.

Moss does not believe there should be school vaccine mandates while there is a shortage of doses.

“My own view is that it is too early to have vaccine mandates for the 5 to 11 year old group,” he said.

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