CDC Director: No Federal Vaccine Mandate for Students 'Right Now, at This Moment'

By Susan Jones | November 5, 2021 | 6:12am EDT
Students wear facemasks at the St. Lawrence Catholic School in Miami. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Students wear facemasks at the St. Lawrence Catholic School in Miami. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "I urge the CDC and the administration against implementing a vaccine mandate for students," Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told a Senate hearing on Thursday.

But when he asked CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to "assure me" that won't happen, she eventually offered a tepid response:

"I will always encourage that parent to get their child vaccinated, and speak to them about the information and communication, and education that they need in order to get their children vaccinated," Walensky said. "Right now, at this moment, those decisions are made at the jurisdictional level as they are for vaccination of other all -- other vaccine preventable diseases among children."

Moran, speaking at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said, "Forcing parents to vaccinate their children as a requirement to attend public school would be, without a doubt, a federal overreach...an extreme departure from our educational system's historic long-standing reliance upon local and state control."

Moran told Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "the decision to vaccinate a child should be left to the parent and their trusted physician. It's a private relationship the federal government should not be inserting itself into with a mandate."

Shortly before the hearing started, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration issued an "emergency temporary standard" requiring two-thirds of the nation's private-sector workforce to get vaccinated or tested weekly -- or else.

President Biden already has directed the federal work force, federal contractors and the U.S. military to get vaccinated as a condition of employment or service. And on Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandated vaccination for employees of health care facilities that treat Medicare or Medicaid patients.

Here is a transcript of the full exchange between Moran and Walensky:

Moran: First, Dr. Walensky, I'm interested in learning what the administration's plan may be in regard to vaccination mandate. Just days ago, you signed off on the Emergency Use Authorization for pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.

The issue of mandates is roiling across the country and there -- while there are many parents who are interested and willing to get their young children vaccinated, there are also other parents who still question the pediatric use of Emergency Use Authorization and are concerned about a potential federal vaccine mandate.

I share the concern about federal vaccine mandate. I urge the CDC and the administration against implementing a vaccine mandate for students. Forcing parents to vaccinate their children is a requirement to attend public school would be, without a doubt, a federal overreach. Federal government mandates for children to attend school that would represent an extreme departure from our educational system's historic long-standing reliance upon local and state control.

And in my view, the decision to vaccinate a child should be left to the parent and their trusted physician. It's a private relationship the federal government should not be inserting itself into with a mandate. Perhaps all that commentary is unnecessary and you can just assure me that that is not what is the next step in mandates from the Biden administration.

And if -- just you, can only answer -- I mean, perhaps you can't answer what the Biden administration is going to do, but what is your thoughts and what would your recommendation be?

Walensky: Thank you, Senator Moran. I am delighted that this week we were able to strongly recommend that 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine to prevent infection, to prevent severe disease, long COVID, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and as well as death in the children that we have seen between the ages of five and 11. Those recommendations are strong.

They are after endorsement of the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization. Vaccine requirements are -- for schools are left to the local jurisdiction. And so, we will leave those to the local jurisdiction to make those decisions.

Moran: So, can -- just parents who may have concerns about whether or not their children will be able to attend school, that will not be a decision that's made by -- without a vaccine, that's not a decision that will be made by the CDC or the Biden administration, but remain a local decision to be made by a local board of education?

Walensky: I will always encourage that parent to get their child vaccinated, and speak to them about the information and communication, and education that they need in order to get their children vaccinated. Right now, at this moment, those decisions are made at the jurisdictional level as they are for vaccination of other all -- other vaccine preventable diseases among children.

Moran: I felt better when you said -- before you said "right now," and that just causes me to again ask, is there any intention to change that longstanding practice?

Walensky: Not to my knowledge.

Moran: Thank you.

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