The Louisiana Department of Health today reaffirms its official recommendation that all eligible children receive the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their families. This public health recommendation has not changed; in fact, it is more urgent now given the recent increases in COVID cases, percent positivity, and emergency department visits for COVID-like illness throughout the state.
As the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children continues down its FDA full approval pathway, LDH is adjusting its plans and will not add the COVID-19 vaccine to the school immunization schedule ahead of the upcoming school year. While we strongly recommend all eligible children be vaccinated against COVID-19 now, if they have not already been so, we are making this decision to give families and schools the time they need to prepare accordingly.
When LDH began the standard process of adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the school immunization schedule, we expected more age groups would have full FDA approval in advance of the 2022-2023 school year. The FDA has not yet fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine for those under the age of 16; therefore, at the start of the 2022 school year, students in Louisiana will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. We have the utmost confidence in the rigorous FDA processes; however, they do take time.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the LDH recommendation is clear: vaccinating your children ages 5-17 is the best way to protect them against COVID-19.
According to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death among children ages 5-14 and young people ages 15-24 in January 2022.
Since March 2020, Louisiana has tragically lost 21 children to COVID, all of whom were not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.
LDH also has confirmed 331 cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) — a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. MIS-C is strongly linked to COVID-19 infection and vaccination appears effective at reducing the likelihood of developing MIS-C.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to spread in Louisiana. The COVID-19 lull we enjoyed following the Omicron surge earlier this year is starting to reverse itself. While hospitalizations remain low at this time, cases, percent positivity, and emergency department visits for COVID-like illness are all increasing statewide.
LDH is sharing this official guidance with sister state agencies, elected officials and community partners across the state, but also urges the general public to share this directly within their communities.