CDC Adds COVID-19 Vaccines to Child Immunization Schedule

By Naveen Athrappully

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added COVID-19 vaccines to its routine immunization schedule for children and adults on Thursday, attracting criticism for the decision.

According to the CDC’s 2023 immunization schedule for children and adolescents, two or three doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been recommended beginning with infants who are just six months old. Children in the age group of 6 months to four years, and five years to 11 years are recommended COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer. Among children aged 12 to 18, Novavax vaccines are also recommended in addition to Pfizer and Moderna.

In the list for adults, two or three doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been recommended from the age of 19 years. The 2023 COVID-19 vaccine recommendation for kids and adults is included among other typically-recommended vaccines for measles, flu, rubella, and so on.

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Advisers to the CDC in 2022 recommended adding the vaccines to the schedule.

Though the CDC has added COVID-19 vaccines to the recommended list, it has not mandated the vaccines. The agency does not have the authorization to do so, but local and state jurisdictions can, and many mandate most of the vaccines on the schedule. However, there are hardly any states that make flu vaccinations mandatory in public schools.

Lawyers have said they’ll sue any state that requires COVID-19 vaccination to attend school and many officials have vowed not to implement such a requirement.

The CDC’s move to add COVID-19 vaccines to immunization schedules has attracted criticism online.

“While I thought impossible for @CDCgov to lose anymore credibility—they decide to do this despite growing studies showing declining efficacy, no net benefit for majority of immunocompetent” individuals, anesthesiologist Megan Martin said in a Feb. 10 tweet.

Vaccine Injury Compensation For COVID-19

The children’s vaccine schedule points out that COVID-19 vaccines are not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), a no-fault alternative to the traditional legal system for resolving vaccine injury petitions.

Instead, COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are covered by the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).

Created in 2010, the CICP is a compensation program aimed at vaccines and medications which are developed as a response to any public health emergency.

Claimants must file a request for compensation within a year of being injected with the vaccine. The program, mostly intended for children’s vaccines, is known to be more arduous and less generous than VICP.

Without the development of a vaccine injury table by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the burden of proof lies with the petitioner and not the government to prove causation in order to establish eligibility.

An analysis by Bloomberg shows that while the average compensation payout under VICP is around $533,000, the payout under CICP is just above $200,000. VICP guarantees legal representation and hearing for claimants. Individuals applying under CICP do not get these benefits. While decisions made by VICP officials are made public, CICP decisions are never known.

“Agency officials decide the claims in secret, without the opportunity for injured individuals or their families to speak with or interact with decision makers,” Nora Freeman Engstrom, a professor at Stanford Law School who researches vaccine injury compensation programs, said to the outlet.

Since CICP decisions remain unpublished, “the public and researchers can’t know which adverse events were found with vaccines and which were not … This has the potential to stunt our understanding of these vaccines’ safety and efficacy,” she stated.

COVID-19 Vaccine Injuries

According to a recent study from the CDC, more than 1,600 children between the ages of five and 11 experienced a systemic reaction like diarrhea or fever after receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccines.

Almost half of the children in the study who received updated Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were found to have experienced a systemic reaction, which is defined as “usually mild” reactions that last for multiple days. Systemic reactions are rated above local reactions on the severity scale, just below severe reactions.

In a Feb. 1 paper, the CDC reported that 73 cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome were identified in adults within 42 days of taking a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot.

The syndrome causes the body’s immune system to attack certain parts of the nervous system. Based on the usual annual rate of the syndrome, only 31 cases were expected.

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