North Carolina Public Health Commission to Consider Petition to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination for 17-Year-Olds or High School Students

GUILFORD COUNTY, NC (WGHP) – The North Carolina Public Health Commission will consider a petition on Wednesday to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for students who are at least 17 years old or entering their last years of high school.

But three of the state’s top health officials, Dr. Elizabeth C. Tilson, state health director Dr. Kelly Kimple of the Department of Health’s Women’s and Children’s Health Section North Carolina Health and Human Services and Mark T. Benton, assistant secretary for public health at NC DHSS, said they believe such a rule change would be “premature.”

Their position is outlined in a memo to Dr. Ronald B. May, chairman of the commission. The committee will meet virtually at 9 a.m. and the item will be considered “a rule-making petition,” which will be presented by Kimple, depending on the agenda.

“Specifically, the petition requests the addition of a COVID-19 vaccine to the state’s immunization requirements for persons 17 years of age or entering 12th grade,” their memo reads. “This memorandum contains our recommendation to the Commission on this regulatory petition.

“As information on vaccine doses and the timing of boosters is still evolving, we believe it is premature for the Commission to codify the vaccination schedule through the development of rules. The Commission may consider adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule at a later date.

The petition was submitted Oct. 1 by four Appalachian State University faculty members — Stella Anderson of the Department of Management, Nancy Love of Government and Forensic Studies, Martha McCaughey of Sociology, and Emily Dakin of Social Work — and is signed. by 255 students, most of them from the state of Appalachia.

In support of this demand, the petition cites, in brief, the emergence of “safe, effective and available COVID-19 vaccines”; the need for the UNC system to take participation in vaccination beyond volunteering; the recommendation in April from the American College Health Association that all institutions of higher education should make vaccination mandatory; and that the claim “is supported by overwhelming evidence, precedent, law and the authority of the Commission itself”.

Low adolescent vaccination rates

If the board were to pass this rule change, parents and guardians of 17-year-olds or those entering their senior year of high school would need to show their COVID-19 vaccinations in the same manner as students entering high school. preschools are required to show proof of their vaccines. against measles, chickenpox, mumps and poliomyelitis, as it has been for generations.

The Public Health Commission consists of 13 members, four of whom are elected by the North Carolina Medical Society and nine of whom are appointed by Governor Roy Cooper, who also appointed its chair and vice-chair. By law, this group determines most public health policy in the state. Tilson performs advisory and reporting functions.

In NCDHHS records, 47% of state residents ages 12 to 17 were fully immunized with at least one shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Among 18-24 year olds, this rate rises to 54%.

North Carolina has recorded nearly 2.422 million cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and about 99,630 of them are between the ages of 15 and 17. Another 145,545 are between 10 and 14 years old.

School districts involved

How such a mandate might be received is, of course, controversial. For example, not all school districts require students to wear masks, let alone be vaccinated.

“Rockingham County schools are aware of this petition, but the school board has taken no action,” RCS spokesman Adam Powell wrote in a response to an email from WGHP. “Based on my various interactions with our elected officials, I don’t think a vaccination mandate would be welcomed by a majority … of the Rockingham County Schools Board of Education.

The Rockingham County School Board does not require masks for students, although, Powell said, masks “are strongly encouraged, but not required.

“The Board has not taken any action on vaccines so far. We do not have any vaccination clinics at school sites or RCS facilities. No elected officials, either the board of education or county commissioners, has taken the official position in this county that vaccines should be required to my knowledge.

Janson Silvers, spokesperson for Guilford County Schools, said GCS officials “do not comment on assumptions.”

Brent Campbell, director of marketing and communications for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said district officials are not taking a position on the matter.

“We are not medical providers, but we always work with medical providers/partners to support whatever is in the best interest of the health and safety of students and staff,” Campbell wrote in an email. mail.

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