Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

State vaccine requirement for schools

Edwards moves forward with change in spite of lawmakers’ objections
Caleb Daniel
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Article Image Alt Text

The COVID-19 vaccine will be on the list of required shots for Louisiana school children 16 and up for the 2022-23 school year, though various exemptions are available to all.

In an expected move, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday overruled the House Committee on Health and Welfare’s rejection of the vaccine requirement and notified the House that the health department will move forward with adding the COVID-19 shot to the immunization schedule.

“By any measure, the COVID-19 vaccines have been a historic success,” Edwards said in a letter to the House committee. “However, we know that there have been far too many of our friends and neighborts who have yet to be vaccinated. This includes school age children who do have risk of serious illness and death.”

Like all other vaccines on the schedule, families will have the option to turn in a medical exemption from a doctor or a simple written dissent form from a parent or guardian in place of proof of vaccination.

“We will certainly honor all the exemptions out there,” Lincoln Parish Schools Superintendent Ricky Durrett said. “We certainly hope to keep that as a parental choice. We’ll try to be as lenient as possible and still follow the guidance we’re supposed to.

“We’ll make it clear to parents on how to (turn in exemptions) and help them do that.”

The requirement applies only to those ages for which the vaccine has been given full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which as of now is 16 and up. But that could expand in the future.

The window of time to begin turning in proof of vaccination or exemptions to the local school systems for next year has yet to be determined.

The House health committee, including Ruston’s own Rep. Chris Turner, met for about eight hours last week to hear mostly anti-vaccine-requirement testimony and ultimately voted 13-2 to reject the proposed mandate from the Louisiana Department of Health.

But the choice is ultimately the governor’s, as multiple state statutes have ceded the Legislature’s power over vaccination schedules to the LDH.

Even so, Attorney General Jeff Landry, a vocal opponent of vaccine requirements, reportedly may challenge Edwards’ move in court.

In his letter Edwards said the state has benefited from the near eradication of many of the other diseases on the current immunization schedule.

“One can only imagine where we would be as a state if the same overheated rhetoric from last week’s meeting was applied to polio or measles,” he said.

Opponents of the requirement have argued that the COVID-19 vaccine is not comparable to others in terms of efficacy.