By William Patrick | The Center Square
(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Department of Health announced Wednesday all COVID-19 vaccine providers for children can begin administering the Pfizer pediatric vaccine immediately.
The announcement followed a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel’s final recommendation Tuesday. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine in children age 5-11 on Friday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards endorsed the possibility of vaccinating children last week when he lifted a statewide mask mandate outside of K-12 schools. He issued an enthusiastic statement Wednesday in conjunction with the health department’s announcement.
“This is exactly the news we’ve been waiting to hear, and I’m especially glad that the best protection we have against COVID-19 is now being afforded to our children ages 5-11,” Edwards said.
Edwards, a Democrat, added parents and guardians have “an obligation and responsibility” to make sure children are vaccinated, which he called “a major step in the right direction.”
“To minimize the transmission of the virus we must maximize vaccinations – especially in our children who are more likely to be asymptomatic and unknowingly spread the virus to others,” Edwards said.
The approval has far-reaching implications for Louisiana school children. A group of GOP legislators addressed those implications in a recent letter to State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley.
While citing a 99.9973% COVID-19 survival rate for the age group and noting that fully vaccinated individuals still can get infected and spread the virus, 14 Republican House members urged Brumley to prioritize parental consent.
“Informed consent must be given to those receiving the shot and they must know they have the right to refuse,” they wrote. “At a minimum, verified parental consent for minor children should be obtained in advance if children are given a Covid shot on campus.”
Brumley said in an emailed statement after Wednesday’s announcement, “I fully appreciate vaccine access for all children and believe decisions surrounding vaccinations of students should be made by parents in consultation with their family doctor.
“From the early stages of the pandemic, we sought priority vaccine access for Louisiana’s 167,000 early care and school employees. My position for Louisiana students is no different,” he said.
Edwards did not mention a vaccination mandate for public school children in his endorsement or the possibility that children could be subjected to so-called vaccine passport policies to attend restaurants, government buildings and other public places, which has existed in New Orleans since August for children age 12 and older.
State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter summarized the Louisiana Health Department’s position Wednesday, saying, “The CDC’s clear recommendation is for everyone 5 years of age and up to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”
The pediatric vaccines are in the process of being shipped, LDH said, and Louisiana providers will begin receiving initial shipments this week, if they haven’t already.