State Board Considers Proposal Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for All K-12 Students

Josephine Peterson / The News Tribune

Washington State Health Department is considering a proposal to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all K-12 students, and some people aren’t happy about it.

The board has scheduled a virtual meeting for Wednesday January 12th to hear an update from a group tasked with recommending whether vaccination against COVID-19 should be required for K-12 students.

Department of Health officials will present an update to the Technical Advisory Group, which includes members from the Department of Health, the Department of Children, Youth and the Family, the Department of Health, the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a tribal representative.

In October, the board instructed employees to initiate the process of convening a technical advisory group to consider whether a COVID-19 vaccine should be considered for inclusion in the K-12 vaccine requirements, board spokesperson Kelie Kahler said Week. The board unanimously approved the motion after Vice Chairman Tom Pendergrass introduced the issue. Pendergrass is Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington at Seattle, according to his State Health Board biography.

“The board is currently still working on the finalization of certain members for the TAG,” said Kahler.

The State Health Department and Office of the Superintendent of Public Education, both of which have members of the Technical Advisory Board, referred to the Health Committee.

The state law has given the board the authority to determine the vaccination requirement. According to an item on the Health Committee’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the Board of Directors and the Washington State Department of Health have convened an “interdisciplinary” technical advisory group to evaluate COVID vaccines against nine criteria.

The nine criteria include vaccine effectiveness, cost, evidence of “acceptable levels” of side effects, and the likelihood of reduced transmission.

The group has planned further meetings between January and March 2022 before making its recommendation to the Health Council. The board will then vote on the measure. According to the agenda, the board does not take the action this week.

By January 10, the state executive had received more than 3,500 pages of public comments on the agenda item, the vast majority of which oppose the consideration of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for students. The board closes the written public comment on Friday at 12 noon before each meeting.

Many organizations have encouraged members to comment on the potential policy, such as Informed Choice Washington, One Washington, both of which have encouraged the public to oppose the state’s mandate to vaccinate public employees and educators, and the Republican Party of Pierce County.

The biggest concerns among commenters were that vaccines are “experimental drugs” that take longer to get fully approved, and that the board of directors is making parents decide whether to vaccinate children against the coronavirus , would withdraw.

Some people sent statements of support, like a nurse in Spokane who said COVID-19 vaccine mandates are the best hope we have for keeping children safe and personal tuition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Government, Washington State, and most medical associations have found that COVID-19 vaccines help prevent serious and fatal cases of the coronavirus and the risk of serious side effects that come with it connected is low.

Many threatened to take their children out of school if the board of directors mandates COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’m going to pull my children out of the public school system before I let you force me to give them experimental gene therapy that won’t complete long-term studies for several years,” said a Tacoma resident.

The few supportive comments urged adoption.

“We believe that it is the duty of the Washington State government and legislature, as well as the agencies and agencies of the state, to protect the health and safety of its people, and that the health department is in a prime and critical position to perform this duty . “” Said a resident of Yacolt, Clark County.

The state already requires five vaccinations for students.

Before enrolling a student in school, parents must have up-to-date vaccination against hepatitis B, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough), polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and chickenpox, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education . There are religious, medical, and philosophical exceptions.

Some groups have also started pushing for the board to update the emergency vaccination policy.

The Co-Founder and President of the Brain Health & Healing Foundation, Xavier Figueroa, has filed a petition on behalf of the Informed Choice Washington coalition asking the board to ban any vaccination with an emergency authorization that has not yet completed clinical trials.

In August, the US Food and Drug Administration granted the Pfizer vaccine full approval for use in people aged 18 and over. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are still subject to emergency approval. Full approval will be granted when the FDA completes conducting clinical trials in addition to the data collected for emergency response.

The board will also discuss the petition on Wednesday.