The Corner

Health Care

No, Vaccine Mandates Are Not Coming for Schoolchildren – At Least Not Until Fall 2022

A nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Bathgate Post Office vaccination facility in Bronx, N.Y., January 10, 2021. (Kevin Hagen/Reuters Pool)

Bloomberg Businessweek offers a cover story that is intriguing, but really puts the cart before the horse: “Vaccine Mandates for Kids Could Be the Next Big Back-to-School Fight.”

Yes, it could, but it’s not going to be a fight this year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that an emergency use application approval for vaccines for those between the ages of 5 and 12 are unlikely to arrive before “early to midwinter.” Until December or January or so, vaccines for those under 12 just aren’t an option, aside from parents who show up at a vaccination site and claim their 10-year-olds or 11-year-olds are 12.

Vaccines for those 12 and older are available under an FDA emergency use authorization. I’ll leave the true legal analysis to Andy McCarthy, but it seems most court cases on vaccine mandates have involved vaccines with full FDA approval, not ones that are only approved for emergency use. Keep in mind, schools and school districts generally don’t have the authority to implement vaccine requirements on students, but state governments do. Maybe some state legislatures or state health officials will embrace mandating a vaccine that only has emergency use authorization, but… that seems like a much riskier and more controversial move than simply encouraging child vaccinations and waiting until the FDA gives it full approval.

The big news today is that the FDA may give full approval to the Pfizer vaccine “by early September.” The FDA approved the EUA for the Pfizer vaccine for adults back on December 11, 2020. Assuming FDA’s approval process for the kid-friendly version of the Pfizer vaccine takes the same amount of time, full approval of a Biologics License Application would arrive sometime around September 2022 – a factor for next school year, but not the one starting soon.

So, yes, sometime after September 2022, it is possible a state legislature may attempt to implement a vaccine mandate for public schools.

Then again… what will the state of the pandemic be, one year from now?


The Latest