By Cara Murez and Robin Foster
FRIDAY, Oct. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) – In an unanimous vote on Thursday, a panel of U.S. vaccine experts recommended that COVID shots be added to the list of recommended vaccinations for children and adults.
Now it's up to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to decide whether to follow the advice of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Even if the agency does approve adding the shots to the schedule, it doesn't amount to a vaccine mandate. State and local jurisdictions will still decide what vaccines are required for schools, NBC News reported.
"Moving COVID-19 to the recommended immunization schedule does not impact what vaccines are required for school entrance, if any," said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Local control matters. And we honor that the decision around school entrance for vaccines rests where it did before, which is with the state level, the county level and at the municipal level, if it exists at all."
"This discussion does not change that," he told NBC News.
An example of local jurisdictions making their own choices includes the HPV vaccine, which has been on the immunization schedule since 2006. Only Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., actually require it for both girls and boys. Virginia requires the vaccine for girls, NBC News reported.
Despite having a recommended national vaccine schedule, vaccination rates for American children have dropped during the pandemic.
COVID cases are also declining among U.S. children, totally close to 28,000 last week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is the first time since early April that cases were under 30,000.
An advantage to having COVID-19 shots on the vaccine schedule is that insurance providers typically will cover recommended vaccines. Though federal dollars are still paying for those vaccines, that will eventually end, NBC News reported.
The COVID vaccines could also become a part of the federal Vaccines for Children program, which would provide them free to children covered by Medicaid.
"By adding it to the VFC program, it now makes these vaccines available to these uninsured and underinsured children," said Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, former public health commissioner for Chicago and a former practicing pediatrician.
Morita called the schedule the "gold standard" for clinicians.
"I used to look every year, waiting for this vaccine schedule, to make sure I was following the best vaccination guidance available," Morita told NBC News.