CDC committee recommends adding COVID vaccines to routine immunization schedules

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the CDC’s panel of independent vaccination advisers, yesterday recommended adding COVID-19 vaccines to the list of recommended vaccines in the routine immunization schedules for children and adults.

The recommendation is part of the updates to the 2023 childhood and adult immunization schedules and comes “almost two years since COVID-19 vaccines were first rolled out in the U.S., and nearly 630 million doses have been administered nationwide,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) said.

Per a CDC press release, the ACIP recommendation to add COVID-19 vaccines to the routine immunization schedules “represents another step in the nation’s recovery.”

CDC underscored that these are only “recommendations for use of vaccines, while school-entry vaccination requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions.”

The latest recommendation “simply helps streamline clinical guidance for healthcare providers by including all currently licensed, authorized and routinely recommended vaccines in one document,” without changing the COVID-19 vaccine policy, CDC said.

“The updated schedules and program guidance will be published in early 2023,” CDC said.

Ensuring equitable access

Noting the ACIP meeting featured a presentation of the remarkable safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death, American Medical Association (AMA) Board Chair Dr. Sandra Adamson Fryhofer emphasized the importance of the vaccine for children.

“AMA applauds ACIP for recommending the addition of the COVID-19 vaccines to the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. This step helps ensure equitable access to the vaccines as we transition COVID-19 countermeasures to the commercial marketplace,” she said. “This essential federally funded program provides no-cost vaccines to children who otherwise might not get vaccinated because of insurance status or inability to pay.”

Adding COVID vaccines to the immunization schedule is the first step in potentially having them “covered by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program” (VICP), which allows those alleging vaccine injuries to pursue settlements from the federal government instead of vaccine manufacturers, according to Politico. “HHS would have to formally add COVID vaccines to the VICP, and Congress would have to pass legislation imposing excise taxes on COVID vaccine doses to be covered under the program,” Politico adds.

The CDC on Monday issued an interim immunization schedule for the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans over six months old. The schedule includes recommendations on the number of doses, the interval between doses, and advice for those who are immunocompromised.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), 17 states have passed laws prohibiting COVID vaccine mandates for students. Although the CDC stresses that it is only making recommendations, “adding COVID vaccines to the immunization schedules could influence states that are inclined to require them for school entry to do so,” as many states use the schedules as guidance for requirements, according to vaccine law experts cited by Politico.

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