Louisiana Governor Mandates Vaccines for Students

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Despite the fact that there is still no significant evidence that students are at risk of spreading COVID-19 in schools, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat in charge of a red state, is moving forward with a vaccine requirement for students.

The COVID-19 vaccine will join MMR vaccines on the list of required shots for children, though parents will have the ability to opt-out as is the case with the standard vaccines. The rule also only applies only to the ages vaccines have full FDA approval for – ages 16 to 18.

Edwards’ mandate, however, comes after a Louisiana House committee voted against it.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is moving forward with adding COVID-19 vaccines to the required list of school shots, overturning a vote from a legislative panel last week to nix the mandate recommended by the Louisiana Department of Health.

Louisiana and California are the only two states to mandate the vaccine for school children, according to testimony in Louisiana Health and Welfare Committee hearing.

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The governor sent a letter Tuesday to House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, informing him of the decision.

“One can only imagine where we would be as a state if the same overheated rhetoric from last week’s meeting was applied to polio or measles,” Edwards, a Democrat, wrote in his letter. “The development of the COVID-19 vaccines in time to help us put this pandemic behind us also requires us to do everything we can to add COVID-19 to the list of diseases that no longer pose a serious threat.”

The problem with Edwards’ rhetoric is that it doesn’t match reality.

Polio and measles are largely eradicated but were also more infectious and more dangerous to children. To date, in-person instruction has not led to mass spreader events in schools and schools have been able to reopen safely. While infections among students are currently climbing in places like New Jersey, this is due largely to the behavior of students and parents outside of schools, and the infection rate among school-age children is still significantly lower than among adults. And, the common denominator is comorbidities.

To compare the vaccines for polio and measles to the vaccine for COVID-19 is to defy the reality of the situation. COVID spreads more like the flu, and is as endemic as the flu, which has a vaccine and is not a requirement for schools.

For politicians, the media, and health officials, a lot of the reaction to COVID has been akin to PTSD. The novel coronavirus hit hard and fast and left a lot of health systems overwhelmed and did kill a lot of people early on. We weren’t prepared and the original wave showed that. But we are prepared now. We know how the virus works, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. And, yes, the vaccines do help. A booster is shown to help. But, surviving the infection is easier now than it was in the beginning. We have learned a great deal and the variants have been far less dangerous than the original virus.

Edwards is a Democratic governor doing the exact same thing as other Democratic governors because that’s his worldview. He seeks to use the government to mandate more as a means of protection. He wants to use these mandates and this rhetoric to force or scare people into giving their kids the vaccine – a vaccine that the medical community has more disagreement over than the media would like you to believe.

He refuses to understand that you cannot protect against everything and that forcing more and more mandates only ends with those laws and rules being broken far more often than they are upheld, and he does so because he believes that the government should be able to force you to comply so that everyone is safe. It is a refusal to remember that the power of government comes from people, not the politicians.

And, a note to Republicans in the state of Louisiana: This is on you. Your stubbornness in how you’ve handled the last two gubernatorial elections led to this moment. You have a big government progressive as governor of a deep red state because you couldn’t keep your party together and unify behind a candidate. You couldn’t even recruit good candidates. This is the result.