Arizona children will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when they return to classrooms in the fall, the state’s top public health official said Wednesday.
Children 12 to 15 years old can begin receiving the vaccine starting Thursday. Arizona children will be able to get their doses as soon as 8 a.m.
“We’re not discussing adding it as a required vaccine for school,” Director Dr. Cara Christ of the Arizona Department of Health Services said.
“Arizona has an administrative code that has a list of required vaccinations,” Christ said. “We don’t require every single vaccination that’s recommended [by federal public health officials].”
The state’s immunization program office lists the vaccinations for school-age children as required by the Arizona Administrative Code.
Those shots include protection against polio, tetanus, measles-mumps-rubella, chickenpox, and Hepatitis B.
Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are more extensive.
“We have a precedent, right now in our schools, our public schools especially, children have to have certain vaccinations to go to school,” Dr. Richard Carmona, a public health professor at the University of Arizona and former U.S. surgeon general, said.
But parents can opt out of the vaccinations, he said, and their children can go to school.
The COVID vaccine is being dispensed under an emergency-use authorization, meaning the Federal Food and Drug Administration is allowing its use before approval because of the severity of the pandemic.
“Right now, this is still under EUA,” Christ said. “We’re not discussing adding it.”
Federal health officials approved Pfizer vaccination use in ages 12-15 Wednesday afternoon.