Sunday, June 13, 2021
June 13, 2021

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Washington not yet weighing school COVID vaccine mandate

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SEATTLE — Authorities say schools in Washington state won’t consider a requirement to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in schoolchildren until a vaccine is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA on Monday signed off on emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.

The state’s secretary of health, Umair Shah, said Tuesday more than 370,000 Washington teens and adolescents are in this age group.

Teens ages 16 and up are already eligible.

Like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the two other vaccines available here — from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — were also streamlined by the FDA for emergency use in response to the public health crisis. Vaccines undergo rigorous review before they’re fully approved, but the FDA can allow use under so-called “emergency use authorization” in instances when vaccines meet certain criteria and there are no approved alternatives.

The Seattle Times reports that until a COVID-19 vaccine is formally approved, however, officials from the Washington State Board of Health — the board that oversees state vaccine policies — say they won’t consider adding it to the list of required immunizations.

“The board would not require a COVID-19 vaccine for school entry until it’s approved by the FDA and recommended by Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices,” Kelie Kahler, spokesperson for the board, wrote in an email, referring to a committee housed within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that sets national vaccine guidance.

The committee is meeting in an emergency session Wednesday to discuss whether to recommend the vaccine in children, a final hurdle that would pave the way for states to begin vaccinating younger teens later this week.

“Then the board would review the vaccine based on the state’s immunization’s criteria,” Kahler said.

If a vaccine meets the state’s criteria, she said, the board could then consider adding it to Washington’s list.

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