Health Dept., Guv waiting on advice from little-known board
By Guy Page
The Vermont Immunization Advisory Council, a little-known state advisory board, will take center stage in the State of Vermont’s decision whether to require the Covid-19 vaccine for school children, state officials say.
Wednesday, October 19 the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices (ACIP) voted to add the Covid-19 vaccination to the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program for all children ages six months through 18 years old. The decision advises pediatricians to include the Covid-19 vax in their standard regime of childhood vaccinations.
Parents, of course, have the final say. But will the State of Vermont require Covid-19 vaccination for school attendance, as it does many other vaccines?
The CDC leaves that decision up to the states. Last night, Vermont Daily Chronicle emailed the Vermont Dept. of Health, the Vermont Agency of Education, and Gov. Phil Scott’s administration with the same question: will Covid-19 vaccination be required for Vermont schoolchildren?
In a nutshell, the answer was ‘we don’t know yet. We’ll see what the Vermont Immunization Advisory Council (VIAC) has to say – and then we’ll decide whether to follow its advice.’
“No, the actions by ACIP do not change Vermont’s vaccine schedule for school attendance,” Vermont Health Dept. spokesperson Katie Warchut told VDC today. “Under Vermont law, the vaccine schedule for school attendance is adopted by regulation. The Department of Health convenes an advisory committee that takes into account ACIP’s recommendations but is not bound by them.”
Warchut helpfully cited the state law governing the Vermont Immunization Advisory Council.
Warchut said she is not aware of any plans for the VIAC to meet.
VDC received a similar answer from Jason Maulucci, Gov. Phil Scott’s press secretary: “Vaccination requirements begin with the Vermont Immunization Advisory Council, and they have not made us determinations to date.”
What is the VIAC?
Created in 2015 to provide “education policy, medical, and epidemiological expertise and advice to the Department with regard to the safety of immunizations and immunization schedules,” the VIAC rarely meets. It last met in February, in a brief, tentative, gathering via Zoom. Although billed by a UVM Medical Center announcement as a discussion of Covid-19 vaccination for students, no discussion of any kind took place. As VDC reported February 8:
The Vermont Immunization Advisory Council met today for “the pending advice the council might give on Covid-19 vaccination,” newly elected chair Dan French, Secretary of the Agency of Education, said. An announcement of the meeting on the University of Vermont Medical School website said, “The question of requiring Covid-19 vaccination of preschool and schoolage children is expected to be discussed.”
However, when French opened the meeting for discussion, there were no comments. French promised to set an agenda for the next meeting – date to be determined.
The previous meeting occurred in June 2020. A wide-ranging discussion included the religious exemption rate for kindergarteners’ vaccination (down from 4.4% to 3.5%), and setting up Covid-19 clinics in schools when the much-anticipated vaccine became available.