Oct 20, 2022 - Health

CDC panel votes to add COVID shots to immunization schedule

Illustration of a syringe checking off boxes on a list

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday unanimously voted to add COVID-19 vaccines to the 2023 schedule of childhood and adult immunizations.

Why it matters: The 15-0 vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices creates streamlined guidance for what shots people are able to receive and at what age.

Yes, but: States and localities still have the power to decide whether to require vaccinations for school-age children.

Worth noting: More than 20 states have already prohibited COVID vaccine from being required for students, per the National Academy of State Health Policy.

  • Washington D.C. is the only jurisdiction so far to mandate COVID vaccinations for students who are eligible for FDA-approved shots, but the city council could delay the Jan. 3, 2023 deadline.
  • California won't mandate shots this school year, health officials have said. The earliest COVID-19 vaccines would be required for school attendance is July 1, 2023.
  • While the flu vaccine has long been on the annual immunization schedule, only seven states require it, according to a tracker of vaccine mandates for child care and pre-K.

What they’re saying: Thursday’s vote drew swift pushback from conservatives like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said parents should have the final say.

  • In a tweet Wednesday about the updating of the vaccine schedule, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf noted, “We need to be clear that the benefits outweigh the risk of vaccination, but mandates are not the remit of either CDC or FDA.”

What’s next: The CDC is widely expected to accept the recommendation.

  • The endorsement could expand vaccine access, since the Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover vaccines listed on the CDC schedule, said Emmanuel Drabo, a health economist at Johns Hopkins University.
  • But the decision “is not enough to get our vaccine coverage levels to the levels we want them to be,” said Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Chicago’s former health commissioner.
  • “The challenge we have ahead of us really is more resources,” Morita said.

Flashback: The CDC panel separately added COVID vaccines to the federal Vaccines for Children Program, to ensure uninsured kids will continue to have access to shots when funding runs out.

  • The FDA has approved only the Pfizer primary series vaccine for people 12 and up and the Moderna primary series for those 18 and older.
  • COVID vaccines for children 6 months and up and all booster doses are authorized for emergency use.
  • This includes Novavax, which the agency authorized as a booster shot for adults on Wednesday.
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