Federal health and safety officials have gotten increasingly frustrated with the White House over the White House Council of Economic Advisers’ decision to mandate the vaccinations of kids who go to the same school as infectious diseases like measles and mumps.
“We have been dealing with this for a while now and we are generally frustrated with where it’s going,” Diana Zuckerman, an expert on vaccines at the National Center for Health Statistics, told reporters on a call Friday. Zuckerman served as a former deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Government health and safety officials have long treated the White House’s COVID-19 advisory board to get on board with mandatory vaccinations, Zuckerman said. When the administration refused to turn over committee documents to this reporter’s questions, however, officials were unable to study how best to implement such a policy.
“The list that they had provided was much too short, and the information provided was incomplete,” she said. “In those documents that they did provide, there is a list of requirements. In the current set of documents, it’s much longer, and much more specific, about how it’s supposed to be implemented and how it’s supposed to be achieved, and we have not gotten that information and when they are going to provide it.”
The government’s National Committee on Vaccination Practices, an interagency group that coordinates public health policy for vaccines, is just now developing a plan for how it will comply with COVID-19. The timing of that plan, though, remains unclear. It’s unclear whether government health and safety officials may decide to actually implement COVID-19, which would be a departure from decades of vaccine policy.
“We are hopeful that this will not be taken as a unilateral policy. We’re hoping that any proposed legislation that Congress is considering or considering legislation that is underway will be with our input,” said Rob Terwilliger, deputy director of CDC’s Office of Global Health.
Zuckerman and Terwilliger were joined on the call by National Association of Immunization Directors executive director David Hughes.
If passed, COVID-19 would require the state or local government to declare all public, private and for-profit schoolchildren who attend the same school need to have the necessary immunizations. Those children would then be notified, parents would be educated, doctors would receive training, vaccinations would be administered and repeat vaccinations scheduled.
But if lawmakers and governors didn’t pass it, the federal government could take matters into its own hands.
“Our members and I certainly don’t support legislation with the approach that the White House is proposing,” Hughes said. “But they’re asking us to plan for something, and we’re helping to guide that to shape the policy.”