CDC advisory group endorses adding COVID-19 shots to recommended vaccine schedule

An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Thursday to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of recommended immunizations for children and adults.

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The recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is not a requirement for vaccines, but an addition to a list of recommended vaccinations provided by the CDC.

States generally use the CDC list as guidelines, but the decision on which vaccines are required for children attending school or in certain health care facilities is determined by the state, not the CDC.

“Moving COVID-19 to the recommended immunization schedule does not impact what vaccines are required for school entrance, if any,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during Thursday’s ACIP meeting.

“Local control matters. And we honor that the decision around school entrance for vaccines rests where it did before, which is with the state level, the county level and at the municipal level, if it exists at all.”

ACIP recommended Thursday that children 6 months and older, as well as adults, should get the COVID-19 vaccine, plus boosters, when they are eligible for it,

ACIP meets every year to review the vaccines it has recommended and to recommend others.

The CDC will review the proposal and decide if it wants to add it to the list of recommended vaccinations.

Some controversy arose around the committee’s decision when it was suggested by a media outlet that the recommendation was, instead, a mandate for children to get the COVID-19 vaccine or be barred from school.

States can use the list any way they wish, or not at all. For instance, drugs to prevent the human papillomavirus are included on the CDC’s list, but only Rhode Island, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia require it.

Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine policy expert and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he was not aware of any states that automatically require all vaccines on the schedule for school.

“Those are recommendations that go to pediatricians and family doctors as they care for children,” Schaffner said. “They’re just recommendations, there are no automatic mandates that follow.”

There are four COVID-19 vaccines recommended for use in the United States. All four include primary series and boosters, and are recommended based on age, the first vaccine received, and the time since the last dose.