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CDC corrects conservative claim: They cannot mandate COVID vaccines in schools

(NEW YORK) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pushing back on a claim made by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who said on his show this week that a CDC decision was likely coming to force kids to get COVID-19 vaccines in order to attend school.

But that’s not actually within the CDC’s authority, as the CDC pointed out in a rare tweet on Wednesday correcting Carlson, who has a history of criticizing COVID vaccine policy or sharing incorrect information about the shots.

His segment was also fact-checked by Twitter, which threw a disclaimer below the video.

Carlson claimed that at an upcoming meeting of the CDC’s advisory committee, the agency was “expected to” update the list of routine childhood immunizations and include the COVID-19 vaccine, which would soon mean that kids “will not be able to attend school without taking the COVID shot.”

But the CDC clarified that its meeting, scheduled for Thursday, is an annual gathering to adjust and update the slate of vaccines doctors should recommend to their patients, from adults down to children, and that the list of vaccines does not dictate what requirements schools put into place.

“Thursday, CDC’s independent advisory committee (ACIP) will vote on an updated childhood immunization schedule. States establish vaccine requirements for school children, not [the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] or CDC,” the agency wrote in response to Carlson’s segment.

Ultimately, the decision of whether schools require the COVID vaccine cannot be decided at the federal level by the CDC. It’s made at the local level.

“State laws establish vaccination requirements for school children. These laws often apply not only to children attending public schools but also to those attending private schools and day care facilities,” the CDC writes on its website.

“All states provide medical exemptions, and some state laws also offer exemptions for religious and/or philosophical reasons,” the agency writes.

However, if the CDC does update its list of suggested vaccinations to include the COVID vaccine, which is available to anyone 6 months or older, that will open the door for states to begin making those calls, too.

And while there could be grace periods for when the vaccine requirements begin or an increase in exemptions, it’s likely that the COVID vaccine will be required in more schools during the upcoming 2023 school year.

A CDC advisory committee meeting on Wednesday separately decided to add the COVID vaccine to the Vaccines for Children program, a government-funded initiative that allows children to get a host of recommended inoculations for free if they aren’t insured or can’t afford to pay.

“Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all ages and populations remains critically important,” the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver said at the meeting. “This includes now, while the vaccines are being supplied by the federal government, and in the future, when we one day move to a commercial program.”

Federal government officials have said that the current vaccine campaign, to get updated booster shots this fall and winter, could be the last vaccine campaign the government funds. The private insurance market is expected to take on more and more of the process beginning in 2023, much in the way patients go through their health care providers for other vaccines and treatments.

Adding the COVID vaccines to the Vaccines for Children program will “allow children that don’t have insurance to gain access to this vaccine” even after the vaccines are absorbed by the commercial market, said Dr. José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases within the CDC.

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