A petition is asking Virginia Department of Health officials to mandate coronavirus vaccines for eligible students and staff in public schools across the Commonwealth. It has accumulated nearly 7,000 comments online and counting.
The request was submitted last month as a public petition to the Virginia Board of Health.
Any resident can ask an agency to craft new regulations, according to VDH’s Deputy Commissioner for Governmental and Regulatory Affairs, Joseph Hilbert.
It is ultimately up to parents and their children, but the petitioner, Kristen Calleja, says “children only have one childhood…and the irrational minority should not be dictating the public health policy for Virginia or the schools.”
Calleja said in her request message that her 10th-grade daughter “and all other students should have a right to be able to attend school without being unnecessarily put at risk.”
The request was filed on Sept. 1, and the period for public comment ends on Oct. 17. After that, the Virginia Department of Health has 90 days to issue a decision on whether or not to accept it — a process that involves reviewing all comments submitted online.
Most comments are strongly in opposition to a potential requirement.
In Southwest Virginia, health officials say COVID-19 cases in schools are declining “nicely” from their September peak. In-school transmission remains low, according to the director of the New River Health District, Dr. Noelle Bissell, because 75% of transmission is occurring in the household.
When asked his stance on mandating COVID-19 vaccines in schools Governor Ralph Northam’s team sent these comments:
“There are a number of vaccinations already required for school children. Historically this is something approved by the General Assembly through Virginia’s immunization code, and Governor Northam thinks that’s appropriate. We are still a long way from that point, as you know, since the COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for children 5-12. Right now the Governor is focused on our upcoming major effort to vaccinate children once FDA approves it for emergency use. Vaccines save lives, and it is absolutely critical that everyone who is eligible receive their shot.”
Calleja also stated all kids “have sacrificed much over the past 18 months.” Mandating vaccines would cease the “constant disruptions to their education.”