House panel votes against COVID-19 vaccine requirements for some students, governor expected to overrule the decision

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 7:38 PM CST
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A child gets the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
A child gets the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.(WBRC)

At the state capitol, a verbal showdown took place over Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health’s plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations for some students.

Parents who oppose the idea showed up in force and after an hours-long discussion before the House Health and Welfare Committee, the panel voted 13 to 2 against the proposed change but Edwards is expected to overrule that and allow the requirement to take place starting next fall.

Suzanne Rose is a parent who blasted having a COVID-19 requirement for students

“I have the choice and it should remain mine whether I chose to give this experimental COVID shot to my child or not because my child is a healthy 12-year-old boy,” she said.

Nelson Rivero ordered the state lawmakers to vote against it.

“I’m not here to ask you not to vote, I’m actually telling you not to vote as my First Amendment Rights,” said Rivero.

Parents who reject the plan have the backing of Republican state lawmakers. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder was the first to attack it during the hearing.

“To say that this vaccine mandate are a government overreach is crystal clear,” said Schexnayder.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the Louisiana Department of Health has no legal grounds for making such a change. Landry brought lifelong Democrat and known vaccine critic Bobby Kennedy, Jr., to the speaker’s table with him.

“I’m advising you that the proposed LDH plan to promulgate adding COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations for school entry is not permitted under state law,” said Landry.

But State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter defended the plan.

“If enacted, this rule would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the School Immunization Schedule maintained by the Office of Public Health only for the ages for which the vaccines have received full licensure and approval by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. Currently, this would apply only for students aged 16 years and older. As written, this rule would not currently impact students below the age of 16,” Kanter stated.

Kanter says COVID has been devastating for some Louisiana kids.

“A total of 18 children have died with COVID-19 in Louisiana. Of those, 9 children died during our most recent Delta surge. Many more have been hospitalized. Over 275 children in our state have suffered from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), some of whom remain in critical condition,” said Kanter.

The governor and LDH say as always there are ways parents can opt-out of vaccinations for their kids.

“Louisiana law affords students and parents broad ability to exempt themselves from the vaccines listed in the School Immunization Schedule. Students and parents can easily indicate their choice to not receive a scheduled vaccine for either medical, religious, or philosophical/personal reasons. This is the normal state of affairs in Louisiana today and the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine would be no different,” said Kanter.

And Kanter criticized what he called intentional disinformation against the vaccines.

“The effort to save lives in this unprecedented pandemic is hindered by the unintentional promotion of myths and misinformation, and the deliberate propagation of intentional disinformation. As a practicing emergency physician, I can tell you firsthand of the patients I have cared for who fell victim to mis- and disinformation, and some who paid the ultimate price,” said Kanter.

If the rule change happens it would take effect in the fall of 2022.

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