CDC Adds Covid Vax To Schedule; Will PA Follow Suit?

The CDC has added the COVID-19 vaccine to their recommended immunization schedule. But it's the states that have the final say. Details:

Justin Heinze,Patch Staff

PENNSYLVANIA — Federal authorities have voted to include the COVID-19 vaccination on the list of their recommended immunization schedule for schools, but the final say on vaccine requirements in the state remains with Pennsylvania.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory committee's unanimous vote came on Thursday. Despite what was circled by some figures on social media, the vote does not signify a mandate.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in the state continue to trickle steadily downwards, despite the emergence of new strains of the virus in the region.

Pennsylvania now has just one county in the CDC's "high" level of transmission, in which masks are recommended in indoor, public places. That's down from 14 just over a month ago, and down from 6 just over two weeks ago.

The CDC adopted the community-level metric — a metric based on hospitalizations and case rates — in late February. The agency updates its color-coded COVID maps each Thursday, recommending masks in counties with "high" community levels.

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What the CDC's vote means

Nothing in the vote of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — which is made up of public health, medical and scientific experts outside the CDC —requires that Americans get the shots.

CDC officials do think it’s a good idea for people to get inoculations against COVID-19, which has killed 1.06 million people in the U.S. alone since the first laboratory-confirmed domestic case was reported in January 2020.

But there is no requirement as a condition for school enrollment. The CDC does not have that authority. That is left up to individual states.

“Moving COVID-19 to the recommended immunization schedule does not impact what vaccines are required for school entrance,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during Thursday’s ACIP meeting, held via webcast.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, additionally has not changed its stance on what vaccines its requires. While the state also recommends the coronavirus vaccine, they do not require it. Here's previous Patch coverage on everything required by the state for students go back to school. It includes vaccinations for flu, chickenpox; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP vaccine); measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine), polio, and more.

Latest coronavirus numbers in Pennsylvania

Cooler weather has been here for weeks now, but most metrics are continuing to trend downward statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard. Hospitalization rates are slightly up. Statistics from the most recent seven day period monitored are below:

Overall cases dropped from 9,994 to 7,879

Positivity rate dropped from 12.4 percent to 11.4 percent

Incidence rate dropped from 78.1 to 61.5

Average daily hospitalizations increased from 1,177 to 1,201

Average daily number of patients on ventilators decreased from 54 to 63

Hospital emergency room visits remained at 1.4 percent, the same as last week

Two offshoots of the omicron variant of the virus, which officials say have shown the ability to evade vaccines, have emerged in the greater region, according to the CDC.

In the larger region comprised of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, the BQ.1 variant makes up 3.8 percent of cases, and the BQ.1.1. variant makes up 7.5 percent of cases.

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