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An advisory group convened by the Washington State Board of Health voted against requiring COVID vaccines for students from kindergarten to 12th grade in the state’s schools, the Seattle Times reported.

In a split decision — seven against, six in favor and four undecided — the group voted to recommend against adding the vaccine to the state’s administrative code when it presents its findings to Washington’s Board of Health in April.

Following the formal presentation of the group’s findings to the Board of Health at its next meeting, scheduled for April 13, the board will be expected to approve or reject the recommendation.

The all-volunteer group initially was convened by the state’s Board of Health last fall, with a mandate to ascertain whether the COVID vaccine would meet the scientific criteria required in order to be added to Washington’s list of required K-12 immunizations.

Members of the group included doctors and public health officials, as well as state and local education leaders and community organizers.

Members of the group analyzed nine criteria pertaining to the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines and their “disease burden and implementation,” including the efficacy and affordability of the shots, the COVID morbidity rate, and the ability of delivering and tracking vaccinations.

During a Feb. 24 advisory group meeting, Greg Lynch, a member of the group and superintendent of the Olympic Educational Service District 114, said:

“We need to keep our eye on the long term of what we’re trying to accomplish, and I think that’s community health overall … [w]e can’t afford right now to create a movement where the call is ‘go fast now,’ without having a complete picture [of long-term data], which I worry about.”

At the same meeting, another group member, Dr. Ben Wilfond, a pulmonologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, stated:

“As a clinician, I’m used to uncertainty. I actually think the data with regards to COVID is more than sufficient for me to recommend this for anybody enthusiastically.

“But for those who are not ready to be there themselves and the implications of having this as a school requirement, all the things that come with that far outweigh the value of incremental change in vaccination that might happen … if we had this requirement.”

Group member Bill Kallappa, a member of the Washington state Board of Education, disagreed:

“Are we going to put a stop to COVID? Or are we going to allow it to trickle on and continue to cripple us in ways that we don’t know?

“We talked about unintended consequences, and that’s a valid point people bring up. But what are the unintended consequences if we do not respond?”

Keith Grellner, with the Washington’s Board of Health, told the Seattle Times that in the event the board rejects the group’s recommendation, a “public process” will commence, that will add the COVID vaccine to the state’s list of required immunizations — requiring an amendment to the state’s administrative code.

However, in a possible indication of what the board may ultimately decide, Grellner noted that the board has not rejected an advisory group recommendation for at least a decade, adding:

“I think it’s really important for us to follow through on the [advisory group’s] hard work.

“They went to great lengths to go through this information and give us a recommendation pretty quickly, so I think we owe it to them and to the public to make a decision as soon as we can so that this issue is, at least for the moment, wrapped up one way or the other.”

Washington’s administrative code requires students to be vaccinated against, or show proof of acquired immunity for, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and a few other diseases.

The code is applicable for entry to schools and daycare centers, but students can apply for medical, religious, philosophical or personal exemptions.

The advisory group’s vote is significant in light of the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend children 5 and older get the vaccine.

As reported by The Defender, a study released in February found Pfizer’s COVID vaccine was only 12% effective against Omicron in children 5 to 11 years old.

In an interview earlier this month, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky admitted health officials relied too heavily on vaccines as a “cure-all” for COVID, and said vaccine makers didn’t warn the agency that the vaccines would be less effective against potential variants.

According to the Seattle Times, the Seattle School Board previously came out in favor of a COVID vaccine mandate for school children.

However, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been reluctant to issue such a mandate, over concerns it may prompt many parents to withdraw their children from schools.

Inslee had previously enacted lockdowns, vaccine mandates and mask mandates in Washington State, in response to COVID.

As reported by The Defender, several Democratic Party governors who had previously enacted such measures are shifting away from such policies, perhaps in response to sagging poll numbers and the increasing unpopularity of such measures.

As Washington awaits final decision, Florida officially recommends against COVID vaccine for healthy kids

While a final decision regarding whether or not to accept the advisory board’s recommendation is pending in Washington, Florida this week became the first state to break from the CDC’s recommendations that everyone age 5 and older receive the vaccine.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Monday announced he will recommend against COVID vaccines for healthy children. He made the announcement at a 90-minute roundtable hosted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida’s guidance, released Tuesday, states:

“Florida recognizes that parents should always be empowered to make the best health decisions for their children.

“It is essential that health care practitioners review all data to evaluate risks and benefits unique to each patient when determining what health care services to provide, including the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. These decisions should be made on an individual basis.

“As the risks of administering a COVID-19 vaccine to healthy children may outweigh the benefits, the Florida Department of Health has issued [this] guidance.

“Based on currently available data, healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine.

“The Department recommends that children with underlying conditions are the best candidates for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“For children with underlying health conditions or comorbidities, COVID-19 vaccines should be considered in consultation with your health care practitioner.”

Ladapo and DeSantis said the new guidance had to do with lingering questions about the vaccines’ potential health risks for young people.

Further explaining the decision, DeSantis stated that Ladapo had expressed concerns that the vaccine was “being pushed on people,” adding: “[w]e are not just going to follow the CDC in the state of Florida. We’re going to do our own stuff.”

Florida’s official guidance cited a series of medical studies highlighting the following:

“At the present time, there are certain risks to consider that may outweigh benefits among healthy children with no underlying conditions:

    • Limited risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.
    • High prevalence of existing immunity among children.
    • Absence of data informing benefit of COVID-19 vaccination among children with existing immunity.
    • In clinical trials, higher than anticipated serious adverse events occurred among those receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Reduced COVID-19 vaccine efficacy among children 5-17.
    • Risk of myocarditis due to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The state’s official guidance also referred to specific studies for young children and teenagers. For children aged 5 to 11, it states:

“In a clinical trial, there were no cases of severe illness among children ages 5 to 11 among any placebo recipients or COVID-19 vaccine recipients.

“A study conducted out of New York determined that COVID-19 vaccine efficacy declined 84%, from 68% to 12%, over a span of two months for children aged 5 to 11.”

And for children 12 to 17 years old, the guidance notes:

“The same study determined that COVID-19 vaccine efficacy declined 40%, from 85% to 51%, over a span of two months for adolescents ages 12 to 17.

“There is also concern for the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis in children, especially among adolescent boys. One study found the highest rates of myocarditis among males ages 12 to 15, followed by adolescent males ages 16 to 17 years old.”

The guidance notes concerns voiced to the FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, regarding the administration of the COVID vaccine to children.

FDA advisor Dr. Mark Sawyer is quoted as having stated: “[w]e’re all concerned about the myocarditis issue, and I do think the model has overestimated the hospitalizations prevented. I do think we need it as a tool for high-risk children.”

In turn, FDA adviser Dr. James Hildreth had stated: “I do believe children at high risk should be vaccinated but vaccinating all the children to achieve that just seems a bit much for me.”

Gov. DeSantis recently came under fire for advising students to remove their masks at a public appearance at the University of South Florida on March 2. At this event, DeSantis told the students, who were wearing masks:

“You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”

Some of the students then removed their masks.

This incident led numerous media outlets to strongly criticize DeSantis. ABC News accused him of berating kids, NBC News described his statement as an “outburst,” and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote that DeSantis was “wrong to bully kids.”

In turn, Esquire magazine questioned whether this incident is “what presidential timber looks like these days,” while the Tampa Bay Times published a list of “5 ideas for teens next time Ron DeSantis makes fun of masks.”

In response, DeSantis stated:

“When you mask young kids, when adults are telling these kids to mask, that is theater. That is not saving people’s lives. It’s making them suffer a burden.”

DeSantis followed this up with a tweet on March 9, writing: “There is no place in Florida for COVID theater. These experts agree — no masking, no mandates and no medical censorship.”

In the same tweet, a video from the aforementioned roundtable is embedded, featuring Ladapo stating:

“Something that has been missing and hard to find over the past two years … is open discussion and transparency about some of the policies that we’ve seen over the past two years.”

Ladapo has faced criticism from such groups as the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Academy of Pediatrics, but Dr. Robert Malone, an mRNA technology expert and outspoken critic of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines, expressed a different view during the roundtable, stating “[t]here is no justification for mandating vaccines for children, full stop. We’re of the strong opinion that if there is risk, there must be choice.”

Dr. Malone added, “[a]s far as we’re concerned, there is no medical emergency now, and there is therefore no justification for the declaration of medical emergency and the suspension of rights that has occurred with that re-upping of the medical emergency by the executive branch.”