A day after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel voted unanimously to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the recommended immunization schedule for children as young as six months, New Hampshire’s top education official spoke out.
In a “Dear School Leader” letter, state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut told school officials he was writing to “confirm that this recommendation … has no impact on immunization requirements for students in New Hampshire.”
“You may have heard that on October 20, 2022, the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to unanimously recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine be added to the Vaccine for Children (VFC) program,” Edelblut wrote.
“Their vote may generate questions and conversation within your school community and as such, I am writing to confirm that this recommendation by ACIP has no impact on immunization requirements for students in New Hampshire.”
The issue of COVID-19 vaccines, masks, and mandates has been a hotly-contested political issue in the Granite State. Many parents are angry over the learning loss their children suffered during classroom lockdowns that, evidence shows, did little to stop the spread of the virus or protect children. And polls show many parents are reluctant — or absolutely unwilling — to have their young children injected with the new COVID-19 vaccine.
Democrats, on the other hand, continue to defend the classroom closures, push for vaccine mandates, and maintain some of the policies from the height of the pandemic.
For example, Democrats in the state legislature have been in court for months, attempting to force the House GOP leadership to change its voting and attendance rules to accommodate members who believe COVID presents an immediate health risk. Despite President Joe Biden declaring the pandemic over, New Hampshire Democrats were still fighting in court as recently as two weeks ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up their case.
And Granite State Democrats also attempted to get emergency election rules locked into place for future elections as well, such as allowing no-excuse absentee voting.
Gov. Chris Sununu touts his COVID policy of getting schools and businesses open sooner rather than later, an approach opposed by many Democrats, including his opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election. State Sen. Tom Sherman said in February he opposed the Sununu administration’s decision to ban schools from returning to “Zoom School” online classes, a practice many parents found. frustrating.
Sherman called the decision “short-sighted.”
“You’re taking away the ability for schools to protect themselves and to protect their students and their teachers if they have another outbreak,” Sherman said. “It shows the Department of Education has not thought this through and they’re not allowing schools all the arrows in their quiver necessary to fight back against a resurgence of COVID.”
And Sherman backed legislation requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for school attendance statewide, including postsecondary schools.
Sununu signed two pieces of legislation earlier this year offering more protections for Granite Staters who choose not to get the COVID vaccine, including requiring state-run hospitals and county nursing homes to grant medical and religious exemption requests to their vaccine mandates, and prohibiting the state from requiring businesses to mandate vaccinations.
Sherman opposed both bills.
Meanwhile, Edelblut wants educators and parents to know that, unless a new law is passed by a future legislature, there will be no COVID vaccine mandates for students.
“RSA 141-C:1-a provides that no person may be compelled to receive an immunization for COVID-19 in order to access public school districts or school administrative units,” he wrote. “There is no change to the required list of vaccines for children entering childcare or K-12 school in New Hampshire (RSA 141-C). The NH Department of Health and Human Services has stated that they have no plans to seek legislative approval to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the required list.”