ARKANSAS, USA — The COVID-19 vaccine will likely be on the 2023 list of recommended child and adult immunizations. This comes after a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advisory committee voted to add the vaccine.
Governor Asa Hutchinson made it clear on Friday, Oct. 21, that Arkansas will not require children to get the COVID-19 vaccine to go to school. He says throughout the pandemic he has encouraged Arkansans to get the vaccine but has never advocated for mandates.
“It’s very important for parents to understand that parents make the decisions on their child’s health and that there is not going to be a mandate here in Arkansas for COVID vaccine in our schools,” he said.
Hutchinson says the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) said it’s too soon to provide a mandate for children to get the vaccine. He says when a vaccine is put on the schedule by the CDC it is eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.
“Just because they put it on the schedule, it’s not any different than the flu vaccine is subject to reimbursement, it’s on the schedule, but it is not mandated. And so that’s the balance there,” he said.
States like Arkansas will be the ones to decide whether to require the vaccine or not. Pediatrician and Fayetteville Board of Health’s Dr. Marti Sharkey agrees with the COVID vaccine being put on the recommended list because it is a vaccine she recommends for her patients.
“We need to be protecting ourselves against this and we know that two doses of the primary series for COVID decreases hospitalizations in young children by up to 80 percent,” she said.
She says the vaccine being added to the schedule is a good way for parents and pediatricians to have a conversation about the recommended and required vaccines for school entry.
“Now, if we were talking about whether this needed to be required for school entry, I don’t know that I would be agreeing with that wholeheartedly.”
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