Ala. officials respond to new COVID vaccine recommendation for children

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 5:55 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022 to recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine be added to the 2023 childhood and adult immunization schedules.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has responded to the vote and released the following statement:

“The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is aware of yesterday’s vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that COVID-19 vaccine be part of the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The ACIP’s vote to include COVID-19 in VFC is the mechanism to ensure that, when COVID-19 vaccine is no longer provided free by the federal government, uninsured and underinsured children can have access to the vaccine without charge. Including COVID-19 vaccine under VFC is not a mandate for children to take the vaccine.

VFC is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated due to inability to pay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) buys vaccine at a discounted rate for distribution to registered VFC providers. Many physicians in Alabama are VFC providers so that their patients can receive recommended vaccines. Children who are eligible for VFC vaccines are entitled to receive the same ACIP recommended vaccines as any other child.

Vaccines required for a Certificate of Immunization for K-12 in Alabama are diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). Children attending preschool are also required to have hemophilis influenza B (HIB) and pneumococcal vaccines. ADPH allows medical exemptions and religious exemptions in accordance with the Rules below. ADPH does not have vaccine requirements for college age or other groups.”

The CDC only makes recommendations for use of vaccines, while school-entry vaccination requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions.

Alabama State Health Officer, Scott Harris said, “We are not going to mandate the COVID shot for children’s admission to schools.”

Governor Kay Ivey also released the following statement:

“Here in Alabama, the parents make decisions when it comes to their children’s health care. We do NOT mandate the COVID shot for kids – nor will we ever.”

It has been almost two years since COVID-19 vaccines were first rolled out in the U.S., and nearly 630 million doses have since been administered nationwide, providing people with critical protection against severe COVID-19. ACIP’s recommendation to add COVID-19 vaccines to the routinely recommended vaccine schedule represents another step in the nation’s recovery.

It’s important to note that there are no changes in COVID-19 vaccine policy, and today’s action simply helps streamline clinical guidance for healthcare providers by including all currently licensed, authorized and routinely recommended vaccines in one document.

The updated schedules and program guidance will be published in early 2023. CDC will continue to update and work with health departments, providers, and other partners over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition of the COVID-19 vaccination program from emergency response to a routine immunization program activity.

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