The vaccine rollout for 5- to 11-year-olds is nearing and some are wondering if a school vaccination mandate in Illinois will follow.
In California, COVID-19 vaccines will be added to the state’s list of immunizations required for school attendance. On Tuesday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that Illinois could eventually do the same.
“No vaccine requirement at this time, but that’s probably not forever,” Ezike said. “That probably could change much further down the line.”
COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been implemented around the country. Some school systems and the state of Hawaii have begun to require teen athletes and after-school program participants to get vaccinated.
In other states, lawmakers have banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates for college students and school children.
“Here in Illinois, that requirement is something that would go through the Legislature as others have,” said Gov. JB Pritzker Tuesday after receiving a COVID-19 booster shot. “We require lots of vaccinations when kids go to school already.”
There is a long precedent for vaccine mandates in schools, with orders dating back more than a century.
In the 1850s, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate a smallpox vaccination for students. By the early 1980s, all 50 states had vaccination laws covering students first entering school.
As for Illinois’ mask mandate, Pritzker said there are several things he is looking at before dropping the mandate, with the two most important being COVID hospitalizations and vaccinations.
“Are the hospitalization numbers, for example, increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?” Pritzker said. “We want them to decrease. They’re not currently, just to be clear. New hospitalizations are flat.”
Pritzker had earlier said he was hopeful mask mandates would be lifted in time for the upcoming holidays.