LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday directed the state to ensure that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 will be quickly available if the federal government gives it the green light.
Her directive came the same day an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration endorsed the kid-size doses. The FDA is expected to authorize the shots within days, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention next week.
Republicans who control the Michigan Senate, meanwhile, passed bills that would prohibit health and school officials from requiring coronavirus vaccines for children if they lack full federal approval. The legislation also would bar school masking, including at board meetings, and COVID-19 testing requirements if students are asymptomatic. The Democratic governor likely will veto the measures if the House sends them to her desk.
The governor called the pending authorization for more kids a “game changer” that will protect kids as they attend school, participate in extracurricular activities, and see friends and family. The state, which has 825,000 5- to 11-year-olds, has pre-ordered 287,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine.
A study of elementary schoolchildren found that the Pfizer shots are nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infection, even though the youngsters received just a third of the dose given to teens and adults.
“My directive today ensures equitable, expedited distribution of the vaccines. Parents should sign up to protect their kids,” Whitmer said in a statement.
So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to one vaccine — Pfizer's — for people 16 and older. The Pfizer shot also has been given emergency use authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds. The other two COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the U.S. — Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's — have emergency use authorization.
Vaccines offered by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have been authorized on a emergency basis until the FDA grants full approval. About 45% of Michigan's 12- to 19-year-olds are fully vaccinated.
Michigan requires children to be vaccinated against diseases such as measles to enter school, day care and camps but allows medical, religious and other waivers. Although there has been no attempt to require COVID-19 vaccinations for preK-12 students, GOP senators said they were taking preemptive steps and standing up for parents' rights.
One of the main sponsors, Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton, said the bills would prevent schools from discriminating against kids if they do not get vaccinated, wear a mask or get tested when they have no symptoms.
“Access to free public education is a guaranteed right in our state constitution,” she said.
Democrats called the bills “dangerous political rhetoric,” noting that vaccines, masks and testing slow the spread of a deadly virus. State rules already let parents exempt their children from immunizations, they said.
“This is patently pointless,” said Sen. Erika Geiss of Taylor.
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