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Health Dept. rule proposes COVID vaccinations for students attending La schools

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Nov 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-20 17:00:57-05

Louisiana will require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19, or submit an exemption, to attend schools, daycares and universities, under a pending health department rule that adds the disease to the state-mandated immunization schedule, according to our media partners at The Advocate.

It's unclear when exactly the rule will be enforced, though when it does go into effect, it will only apply to age groups that are fully approved by the Food & Drug Administration to get the jab. Kids as young as 5-years-old are currently eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, though so far, full FDA approval has only been granted for those age 16 and up.

Louisiana’s Office of Public Health alerted the Legislature 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 state agencies. It then followed up on Nov. 10 to inform lawmakers that no public comment had been submitted in opposition to the rule.

Under the state’s rule-making statutes, that set off a 30-day shot clock for the health care committees in the House and Senate to call oversight hearings.

The chair of the House Committee on Health & Welfare, state Rep. Larry Bagley, said lawmakers plan to hold such a hearing on Dec. 6. His counterpart in the upper chamber, Sen. Fred Mills, said the Senate doesn't plan to gather for an oversight hearing at this time.

Students are currently required under state law to be immunized against certain vaccine-preventable diseases before attending public and private K-12 schools, daycares, universities and colleges. The Legislature delegates responsibility for curating that list to the state health department.

Still, Louisiana offers broad exemptions from those mandates. A student or guardian can submit a written dissent to opt out of the immunization requirement. Or they can provide a letter from a physician stating that a particular vaccine isn’t advised for medical reasons. The state Department of Education even provides a stock exemption form online.

Gov. John Bel Edwards repeatedly said that he planned to move forward with adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the immunization schedule, once it received full approval from the FDA. That approval came at the end of August, just as Louisiana was recovering from its fourth surge of the deadly virus.

Eighteen children in Louisiana under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to health department data.

To read The Advocate's full article, click here.

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