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Technical advisory group approves of some criteria for requiring COVID-19 vaccine for kids

Student Miles Lewis receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Adam Phillips, an RN with Spokane Public Schools, in May at NC High School.   (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A state advisory group of educators, community members and health care and public health experts discussed more criteria that the COVID-19 vaccine would need to meet in order to be required in Washington schools next school year.

The group will give their recommendations to the State Board of Health, which makes the final decision on whether to require vaccines in schools.

On Thursday, the advisory group considered whether the COVID-19 vaccine meets these three criteria:

  • A vaccine containing this antigen is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and is included on its Recommended Childhood & Adolescent Immunization Schedule.
  • The vaccine containing this antigen is effective as measured by immunogenicity and population-based prevention data in Washington State, as available.
  • Experience to date with the vaccine containing this antigen demonstrates that it is safe and has an acceptable level of side effects.

Currently, the CDC immunization committee recommends use of COVID-19 vaccines for everyone age 5 and older.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not listed as a part of those specific vaccine schedules, however. Advisory group members discussed this dichotomy on Thursday. The COVID-19 vaccine appears to fit the first part of this criteria but not the second part.

On one hand, things could change in just a few months, some members noted, but on the other hand, we are currently in the midst of the largest wave of the pandemic, albeit a declining one. The COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 16 years old are still authorized for emergency use only and not yet fully approved.

This is a part of what might be holding back the federal immunization panel from adding the vaccine directly to the immunization schedule, Dr. John Dunn, medical director at Kaiser Permanente told the advisory group.

“Right now there’s some recognition that we don’t know what the final form of recommendation is for (the kids’) vaccine, whether it will be recommended at age 5 going forward, or age 2 or will COVID evolve into some strain of virus that doesn’t warrant vaccination anymore,” Dunn said.

Ultimately, most advisory group members voted that the COVID-19 vaccine meets this criteria although three members voted “unsure” and two voted “no.”

Workgroup members heard presentations about how the COVID-19 vaccine has prevented cases, hospitalizations and deaths in children and teens as well as the efficacy of the vaccine in trials.

The workgroup unanimously agreed the COVID-19 vaccine is effective “by immunogenicity and population-based prevention data.”

The group again discussed vaccine side effects, which is a stated concern for many families who have yet to vaccinate their children. Experts discussed the data, in regards to what side effects have been confirmed, including myocarditis, particularly in teenage boys.

For every 1 million 12- to 17 year-olds vaccinated, there are about 70 possible myocarditis cases, Dunn said.

But he and Dr. Matthew Kronman, from Seattle Children’s Hospital, also pointed to the higher risk for myocarditis from COVID-19.

Kronman also noted that in one year more children have died from COVID-19 than influenza in a typical flu season.

The majority of group members voted that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe with an acceptable level of side effects, with two members voting “unsure.”

The advisory group is scheduled to meet next Thursday to discuss the remaining criteria and make an overall recommendation to the State Board of Health.

The State Board of Health makes the final decision about what vaccines are required for children in Washington’s schools.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 382 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death.

There have been 1,249 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 173 patients in Spokane hospitals with the virus.

The Panhandle Health District reported 111 new COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths on Thursday.

There have been 897 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents.

There are 81 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.