Unfortunately, today the CDC’s ACIP committee voted to officially add the COVID-19 vaccine to the “Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule”
With a vote of 15-0 the CDC schedule now reflects that children over the age of 6 months to age 18 are recommended to receive the 2-3 dose initial series (depending on the product chosen) plus annual boosters with the mRNA products. For a child under the age of 1 that equates to 20-21 new doses added to the “Recommended CDC Childhood Immunization Schedule”. The Federal government is seeking to do this to maintain the immunity from liability for the pharmaceutical companies who make the COVID-19 vaccines. Once the Emergency Use Authorization is removed the fully licensed products would then be liable for injuries and deaths caused by the products. Currently they are shielded under the PREP Act with some compensation coming from the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, but if they are added to the “Recommended Childhood Schedule” the immunity from liability will be shifted under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and compensation would be obtained through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Many states utilize the CDC schedule as their required immunization schedule to attend school and childcare facilities. While most states do still have the option to “exempt” their children to attend these facilities, although they are rarely well advertised, there are 6 states that do not have that ability anymore. (CA, WV, MS, ME, NY, CT). In Iowa, we DO NOT follow the recommended CDC schedule for school or childcare entry. Our process is different in that the state legislature, or in an emergent situation the state board of health, votes on which vaccines should be required for entry. Currently HPV, Influenza, and Mumps are not required to attend schools and childcare facilities in Iowa. This means the Iowa legislature would need to hold a vote to add a new vaccine to the schedule. In addition to that the Iowa legislature passed HF2298/HF2040 this past spring, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Henry Stone and 29 additional cosponsors in the Iowa House, that prohibits the COVID-19 vaccine from being required for entry into schools and childcare facilities until 2029. We also still have our religious exemption option in place; however, we know that these and state RFRA laws are being targeted next to remove those rights. Currently, Iowa does not have a RFRA law to defend religious beliefs more strongly.
Where this decision could impact Iowans is at the free vaccine clinics hosted for children around the state at school based clinics, free lunch programs, or other public health sponsored events that usually fall under the vaccine for children program, a federally funded program that provides vaccines for free to low income families. Children who utilize this program will often go in for their immunizations with a family member who aren’t always their parents and be given the one page flyer of information that may have several vaccines doses listed but little to no actual information is discussed nor is consent truly obtained since the child is physically there and is likely receiving multiple vaccines that day.
It will also continue to impact the amount of doctors available to see children. Many doctors offices or healthcare organizations have implemented policies that you must be up to date with the CDC schedule or you cannot be seen there. It is an issue the vaccine choice community has battled for years and the few doctors who do not comply with this are often bullied by their county or state health departments, put under scrutiny and harassed by the Iowa Medical Board until complying, or impacted financially by their insurance carriers for not having a high enough percentage of patients up to date with the schedule. It is why the number of providers available to see children not fully up to date with all 69 doses has continued to decline.
We are encouraged to see Governor Reynolds respond yesterday to the vote by stating: “We had to get out ahead of this (with HF2298), but the fight continues and lowa will stand against this reckless federal overreach.” We look forward to further action and hopefully conversation with her and our legislature in this coming session to further protect the natural rights of Iowans to choose what should be injected into their bodies.