COVID vaccine not required for Ohio students

A nurse prepares a syringe of a COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, July 19, 2022. On Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, a panel of U.S. vaccine experts said COVID-19 shots should be added to the lists of recommended vaccinations for kids and adults. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

COLUMBUS — Ohio will not be changing its required vaccine schedule for school children despite updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a Friday release by the Ohio Department of Health.

On Thursday, a CDC advisory committee voted to recommend the agency update its recommended immunization schedules to include the COVID-19 vaccine, including schedules for children. However, in Friday’s statement, ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said that this recommendation does not alter state vaccination guidelines.

“The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation for the COVID-19 vaccine to be added to the formulary or schedule of vaccines for children does not mandate this vaccine for school children,” he said. “Ohio law determines required vaccines for school attendance.”

The statement then referenced to the section in the Ohio Revised Code that outlined vaccination requirements for public school children, which include “mumps, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, rubeola and rubella,” as well as hepatitis B and chicken pox. Exceptions are included in the law for natural immunity, issues of religion or conscience or a written directive from a physician.

“The State of Ohio does not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance,” Vanderhoff said in the statement. “The ACIP vote does not change Ohio law. The state’s list of required vaccines can only be changed through legislation.”

The current Ohio House passed a number of bills limiting the state’s ability to require vaccines of students and workers following the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.

Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, who serves as president of the Senate, pointed to such current Ohio laws in a statement released Friday, also saying that he wants any power to make medical descisions for children remaining with the parents.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is not part of Ohio’s childhood vaccination requirements and I am not in favor of adding it,” he said in the statement. “The Ohio Senate has no intention of making a change to the law.”