COVID vaccine rule not planned for now in Cherry Creek schools

District, Tri-County Health look to state on whether to require shots

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The Cherry Creek School District and the Tri-County Health Department, the public health agency for Arapahoe County, are deferring to state authorities on whether to require COVID-19 vaccination for students, a decision the state doesn't see happening in the near future.

Asked whether Cherry Creek plans to require COVID-19 vaccination for students aged 5 through 11, or for all pre-K through 12th grade students, in the coming weeks or months — or whether the district plans to issue such a requirement around the start of the 2022-23 school year — a district spokesperson said it won't make that decision on its own.

“CCSD will not require vaccines for students unless mandated to do so by state or federal health agencies,” said Abbe Smith, the spokesperson for the district. “We are providing clinics and other opportunities to access vaccines.”

When asked the same question, Tri-County Health — which also serves Adams County amd offers certain services in Douglas County — emphasized that the decision usually happens at the state level.

“At this point, we do not have any plans for vaccine mandates for school students. Such mandates are typically issued by the state Board of Health,” John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health, said in a statement to the Centennial Citizen.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5 through 11 after two federal agencies -- the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- recently expanded vaccine recommendations to include that age group, the Cherry Creek district noted in a letter sent to families in early November.

COVID-19 vaccines are not currently included in the list of vaccines the state requires for school entry in Colorado, though some colleges and universities have created their own requirements. That's according to a statement from the Colorado State Joint Information Center, which takes questions for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Generally, changes to the statewide school entry vaccine requirements would be done through the standard state Board of Health rulemaking process,” the statement said. “It is unlikely to happen before the FDA gives full approval to the vaccine, which probably won't happen for quite some time.”

A district or private school could decide to require their students to receive a vaccine outside of a state mandate, the statement added.

“This is similar to what some universities are doing. The state sets a baseline of requirements, and if schools want to do more, they can do so as long as it doesn't contradict anything the state does,” the statement continued.

Cherry Creek and Tri-County Health are still making an effort to get young children vaccinated.

The initial Tri-County Health clinic offerings for the 5-through-11 age group were to be incorporated into Tri-County's current clinic offerings, where people of all ages are welcome, according to a statement from Karen Miller, Tri-County Health's immunization nurse manager.

“We are hesitant to limit clinic opportunities to 5 (through) 11-year-olds only; oftentimes families enjoy coming together, where parents can get a booster dose or flu shot, while the kids get their COVID vaccine,” Miller's statement said.

She added: “Once the initial demand declines, we will plan more targeted clinics for this age group, such as holding clinics at schools or other community sites, but we do not plan to limit any clinics to 5 (through) 11-year-olds specifically.”

Parents may be hesitant about getting their children vaccinated, but Tri-County emphasized the tested safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I believe a common concern is fear of the vaccine and vaccine safety but less fear of natural COVID infection,” Miller's statement said. “Although COVID infection in children is generally mild, it can be very serious, as evidenced by the children who have been hospitalized with COVID infection and/or who have developed serious conditions such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) as a result of the infection. These rare but serious cases are now vaccine-preventable.”

Miller's statement continued: “With the millions of COVID vaccines that have been administered to young adolescents, and the thousands of children included in the vaccine trials for the pediatric formulation, we can be confident that the vaccine is safe and effective against preventing disease.”

For more information on the FDA's authorization of the vaccine for young children, see the FDA's announcement at tinyurl.com/FDAvaccineauthorize.

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