The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee on vaccines voted Thursday, Oct. 20 to add the COVID-19 vaccine to a list of recommended childhood immunizations.
Ahead of the vote, Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed in a viral tweet on Oct. 18 that the CDC’s addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to its childhood immunization schedule would make it “mandatory for kids to attend school.” A video clip included in the tweet has nearly 2 million views.
VERIFY reader Jacob also texted the team to ask whether the COVID-19 shot is going on a “mandatory vaccine list” for children.
Is the CDC requiring children to get the COVID-19 vaccine for school?
No, the CDC isn’t requiring children to get the COVID-19 vaccine for school. An advisory committee recommended the vaccine for schoolchildren, but only states can require vaccinations.
WHAT WE FOUND
Though the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to add the COVID-19 shot to its recommended vaccine schedules for children, that doesn’t mean the public health agency is requiring the shot for students.
In a statement, the CDC told VERIFY that it "only makes recommendations for use of vaccines, while school-entry vaccination requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions."
This same statement is reflected on a CDC webpage with information about state vaccination requirements. State laws that establish vaccination requirements often apply not only to children attending public schools, but also those who go to private schools and day care, according to the CDC.
These state laws, rather than the federal government, “also establish mechanisms for enforcement of school vaccination requirements and exemptions,” the CDC says.
In the video clip that Carlson shared, his guest, a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, clarifies that states make decisions about vaccine requirements.
U.S. Secretary of Health Xavier Becerra also refuted Carlson’s claim in a tweet. The CDC’s independent advisory group meeting is “not about vaccination requirements” and “any indication is otherwise untrue,” Becerra wrote in part.
Though the CDC advisory committee cannot mandate certain vaccines, many states “align their vaccine requirements” with its recommendations, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) says.
According to the NCSL, all 50 U.S. states have laws requiring certain vaccines for students. All states grant exemptions to children for medical reasons, while the majority also grant exemptions for religious reasons.
As of May 25, 2022, 15 states allow philosophical exemptions for parents who object to their children receiving certain vaccines because of personal or moral reasons, or other beliefs, according to the NCSL.
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Some states, cities, counties and school districts already required COVID-19 vaccines for children in school before the most recent CDC decision.
Children attending school this year in Washington, D.C. are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. California is planning to add the COVID-19 shot to its list of required vaccines, but this won’t happen until the 2023-2024 school year at the earliest, according to the California Department of Public Health.
On the other hand, some states have explicitly banned student COVID-19 vaccine mandates, a map from the National Academy for State Health Policy shows.
For example, Florida Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo said in a tweet that regardless of the CDC vote, “nothing changes in Florida” since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates in schools and other settings.
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