Another bill filed blocking required COVID vaccinations for students

FILE – In this April 26, 2021 file photo, a nursing student administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

RALEIGH — A second bill has been filed in the North Carolina House blocking state agencies from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination to attend the state’s K-12 schools. 

House Bill 222, “CV19 Vaccine Mandates for NC Students,” was filed on March 1 and would prohibit the NC Commission for Public Health (NCCPH) from requiring students to have a COVID-19 vaccination “for any reason.” The measure also bars state and local health officials from requiring students to have the vaccination. 

The NCCPH is a division of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. (NCDHHS).  

This is the second bill barring student vaccinations filed in house the last month. 

The Medical Freedom Act was filed on Feb. 12. The measure bans COVID-19 vaccine requirements or mandates by the NCCPH, employers, and schools as well as prohibiting a person show proof of a vaccination. The bill includes language to bar public school units from instituting the use of face coverings and says healthy students cannot be quarantined. 

Both bills appear to be prompted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adding COVID-19 vaccinations to its childhood immunization schedule. The CDC’s adoption of the COVID-19 shots for kids 18 and under is not a law or mandate and states would be required to adopt the change to the schedule. 

North State Journal has been tracking the activities of the NCCPH over the last year, including a vote taken in February 2022 on whether or not students age 17 and up should be required to get the vaccination to attend public schools and colleges.   

The vote was based on a petition filed in the fall of 2021 by submitted by four professors from Appalachian State University (ASU). 

The NCCPH unanimously voted down adding the vaccination at that time and rejection of the petition was bolstered by a letter to the chair from top NCDHHS officials calling the proposed action “premature.”  

North State Journal reached out to NCDHHS to see of the NCCPH planned to take up the topic again at its upcoming May meeting. 

NCDHHS Communications Manager Kelly Haight Connor confirmed that the CDC’s immunization schedule changes do not trigger changes in “state-level vaccine policy or requirements, including in North Carolina.” 

Connor wrote in an email response that the CDC’s changes “simply formalize recommendations the CDC has already taken on COVID-19 vaccines, and assure that COVID-19 vaccinations continue to be provided free of charge to low income, uninsured and underinsured children whose parents choose to vaccinate them.”  

State law grants the Commission for Public Health (CPH) authority to require immunizations of children in the state that are in the interest of the public health. CPH has taken no action to require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination for children,” Connor wrote. 

Connor also included a summary confirming the actions by the NCCPH in turning down the previous petition request. In her response, she noted the COVID-19 vaccine requirements were not on the commission’s February agenda and “it is not anticipated to be on the agenda for their May meeting.”   

She also said the NCCPH has “not received any other petitions on this matter. “  

 “NCDHHS has not identified a need to revisit the earlier recommendation that the Commission for Public Health not codify COVID-19 into the immunization schedule for children,” wrote Connor.  

She added that “NCDHHS believes vaccinations are an important tool to protect the health and well-being of North Carolinians, including children and public employees — especially those who serve in direct care roles. Preserving the health and well-being of our residents and their communities with vaccines benefits the long-term health and success of all North Carolinians.”