CDC Confirms Plan to Add COVID-19 Vaccines to Childhood Immunization Schedule

CDC Confirms Plan to Add COVID-19 Vaccines to Childhood Immunization Schedule
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta on April 23, 2020. (Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Oct. 19 confirmed plans to add COVID-19 vaccines to the child immunization schedule, which could lead to the vaccines being mandated for school children in some states.

"As we'll be discussing today and tomorrow, incorporation of the COVID-19 vaccines in the immunization schedule and the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is an important step towards inclusion of COVID-19 vaccines in a routine vaccination program," Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC official, told a panel of agency advisers during a meeting on Oct. 19.
An agenda for the meeting said the advisers would vote on immunization schedules for children and adolescents for 2023, but did not make clear whether COVID-19 vaccines could be added.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), or the panel of advisers, recommends vaccines for inclusion in the schedule for three different age groups—birth to 15 months, 18 months to 18 years, and adults. The CDC and two partners make the final decision on inclusion.

The CDC also wrote on Twitter that the committee "will vote on an updated childhood immunization schedule," after Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins University professor, appeared on Fox News's "Tucker Carlson Tonight" late Wednesday to speak out against adding COVID-19 vaccines to the schedule.

CDC officials have not responded to details on the looming vote on the 2023 schedule, which is slated for Thursday. Sarah Meyer, a CDC official, said in a recent talk to the CDC Foundation that advisers would discuss COVID-19 vaccines appearing on the child, adolescent, and adult vaccine schedules.

Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, told The Epoch Times in an email that if the COVID-19 vaccines weren't added to the schedule this week, they likely would be in the future.

"There has not been one vaccine that has been produced by the pharmaceutical industry and licensed for children in the U.S. that has not been eventually recommended by federal health officials for children and placed on the CDC’s childhood vaccine schedule," she said.


While the CDC sought to distance itself from mandates, some jurisdictions have adopted virtually all CDC guidance as mandates.

"States establish vaccine requirements for school children, not ACIP or CDC," the CDC said.

The child and adolescent schedules are portrayed as guidance but a number of states adopt some or all of the recommended vaccines as required immunizations for school attendance. Officials in some states and cities, including California, have said they plan to or have already begun mandating COVID-19 vaccination for certain age groups to attend school.

Other states have banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general, said Florida would not mandate the COVID-19 vaccines for school attendance.

"COVID mandates are NOT allowed in FL, NOT pushed into schools, & I continue to recommend against them for healthy kids," he wrote on Twitter.

Unanimous Vote

CDC advisers on Wednesday unanimously voted to add COVID-19 vaccines to Vaccines For Children (VFC), a program aimed at making sure poor children and adolescents get certain vaccines.

The vaccines will not immediately be available through the program because the U.S. government is already providing vaccines purchased with taxpayer funds to health care personnel across the country. But once agreements the government made with manufacturers end and aren't renewed, the COVID-19 vaccine ordering system will change. At that point, VFC providers can order the vaccines through the program.

The CDC will begin to take steps to award contracts to manufacturers through the program once vaccines are "commercialized," Jeanne Santoli, a CDC official, told the panel.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, a health officer in Seattle and King County who was representing the National Association of County and City Health Officials as an ex officio member during the meeting, said that voting to add COVID-19 vaccines to VFC would help address vaccine inequity, or certain racial groups receiving vaccines at lower rates than others.