Washington, DC Child COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Illegal: Legal Expert

Washington, DC Child COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Illegal: Legal Expert
A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in a file image. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all students 12 and older in Washington, D.C. violates federal law, a legal expert says.

"There is no FDA-approved COVID shot available and therefore, individuals have a right under the emergency use authorization to refuse these shots," Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told The Epoch Times.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency authorization to the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines.

Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, people who go to receive a product that has received emergency authorization must be informed that some benefits and risks "are unknown" and of "the option to accept or refuse administration of the product."

“It is your choice to receive or not receive [the vaccine]. Should you decide not to receive it, it will not change your standard medical care," FDA fact sheets provided to people getting a shot state.

Staver's group may challenge the District of Columbia vaccine mandate.

Other interpretations of the law do exist. The U.S. Department of Justice, for instance, has said that the section "concerns only the provision of information to potential vaccine recipients and does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements for a vaccine that is subject to an emergency use authorization."

Mandate and Availability

Students in Washington aged 12 and older must already get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to be on school sports teams. The D.C. City Council passed a law in 2021 to extend the mandate to attending school at all.

"We need everyone to get vaccinated to stop the spread and protect vulnerable members of our community," Councilwoman Janeese Lewis George, a Democrat, said during a hearing on the bill.

The law says that students must "receive a vaccination that is fully approved in the United States to prevent against COVID-19." But it also states that an approved vaccine needs to be "available" to students for the law to take effect.

The FDA has approved Pfizer's vaccine for children as young as 12. But vials produced after the approval are marked Comirnaty, which became the vaccine's trade name. And a survey of vaccine providers in the city indicated there are no vials of Comirnaty available.

"Unfortunately we do not," West End Pediatrics, one of the providers, told The Epoch Times in an email when asked if they were administering Comirnaty.

Four other providers could not confirm having Comirnaty vials, while nine others did not pick up the phone or respond to requests for comment.

As recently as February, no states could confirm receipt of Comirnaty vials.

Education Officials

Citing the city law, the district's Office of the State Superintendent of Education said on July 19 that students aged 12 and older must get a COVID-19 vaccine to attend school in the fall, unless they are granted a medical or religious exemption.

The deadline is the start of the school year.

“We want to make sure that all of our students have everything they need for a healthy start to the school year,” State Superintendent of Education Christina Grant said in a statement. “This means making sure children see their primary medical provider for a well-child visit and receive all needed immunizations.”

The office noted that the FDA has approved Pfizer's shot for the age group but did not mention whether the vials produced after FDA approval were available.

Fred Lewis, a spokesman for the agency, declined to answer questions.

"Please reach out to the DC Department of Health for this information. DC Health is better able to respond to questions on vaccine availability in the District," Lewis told The Epoch Times in an email.

A spokesman for the department of health did not respond to inquiries.

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at zack.stieber@epochtimes.com
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