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A Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse loads a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., on July 19, 2022. (AP) A Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse loads a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., on July 19, 2022. (AP)

A Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse loads a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., on July 19, 2022. (AP)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek October 20, 2022

CDC committee’s vote did not make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for schoolchildren

If Your Time is short

  • An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted in favor of adding COVID-19 vaccines to the CDC’s recommended, routine immunization schedule for adults and children. That schedule is not a mandate.

  • States establish vaccination requirements for attending school or daycare, not the CDC. 

  • State officials consider the CDC advisory committee’s recommendations when setting vaccine requirements, but experts said no state follows CDC recommendations to the letter.

A routine meeting of a group of vaccine experts who advise the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention became the target of a storm of misinformation after unfounded rumors that the group’s vote could result in nationwide COVID-19 vaccine mandates for school children.

The misleading claims caused an uproar on social media

Fox News host Tucker Carlson weighed in, tweeting, "The CDC is about to add the COVID vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule, which would make the vax mandatory for kids to attend school." He also discussed it during his Oct. 18 television show

But Carlson’s claim misrepresents the impact of the CDC advisory committee’s vote. States establish vaccination requirements for attending school or day care, not the CDC.

On Oct. 20, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted in favor of adding COVID-19 vaccines to the CDC’s 2023 childhood and adult immunization schedules.

The CDC’s immunization schedules are a set of recommendations for routine vaccinations, which are based  the advisory committee’s input. The committee — a group of medical and public health experts, including vaccine experts, doctors and scientists — reviews the data on new and existing vaccines to make its recommendations. The schedules are also approved by medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics for children and the American College of Physicians for adults.

Experts told PolitiFact that the committee’s vote to include COVID-19 vaccines in the CDC’s routine immunization schedule is only a recommendation for what vaccines should be given. It is not a mandate.

Although state officials consider the CDC advisory committee’s recommendations when setting their requirements, experts said no state follows the CDC recommendations to the letter. 

The advisory committee’s recommendations are influential, but not determinative, said Dorit Reiss, an expert on vaccine mandates at University of California, Hastings College of the Law. 

The CDC refuted Carlson’s claims, retweeting him and adding, "States establish vaccine requirements for school children, not ACIP or CDC."

PolitiFact reached out to Carlson for comment and his spokesperson directed us to a segment of his Oct. 19 show, where he doubled down on his claim. He fired back at the CDC, saying the agency had lied because "more than a dozen states follow the CDC’s immunization schedule to set vaccination requirements — not suggestions, requirements — for children to be educated." 

He said states including Massachusetts, Tennessee, New Jersey, Vermont and Ohio have policies requiring that students receive the vaccines included in the CDC’s immunization schedule. However, that’s not what their policies say.

Katie Warchut, a spokesperson for Vermont’s Department of Health, explained that state statute sets immunization requirements for school attendance. The department convenes its own advisory committee that takes the CDC’s recommendations into account, she said, "but is not bound by them." 

For example, although the CDC’s immunization schedule recommends the influenza vaccine, it is not on Vermont’s list of required vaccines for school attendance. It is recommended.

What did the CDC committee vote on?

On Oct. 20, the advisory committee was voting "on updates to the 2023 childhood and adult immunization schedules, including whether to add approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines," Kate Grusich, a CDC spokesperson, said before the vote. The committee later voted in favor of adding the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Grusich said that adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the immunization schedules would streamline clinical guidance for medical providers by including all "currently licensed, authorized and routinely recommended vaccines" in one place. (The immunization schedule for adults is here; the children’s schedule is here.)

The CDC advisory committee already was recommending COVID-19 vaccines for children and included them on an interim vaccine schedule, said Reiss from UC Hastings law school. 

The discussion Oct. 20 was about "whether to put them on the routine schedule, and address whether they should be recommended generally, not just as an emergency," Reiss said. 

The COVID-19 vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and licensed for children ages 12 and older. For younger age groups, the vaccines remain under an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.

Who sets vaccine requirements for school districts?

The CDC does not determine which vaccines students are required to receive to attend school or day care, experts said. States set those requirements. 

Dr. William Schaffner, a health policy professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said there are no federal school vaccination mandates — from Congress or the CDC. "It’s never happened," he said. 

Schaffner serves on the CDC’s advisory committee as a non-voting liaison representative for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Each state has its own process by which new vaccines can be added to the list of required immunizations, Schaffner said. He said he does not believe the update to the CDC’s immunization schedule will prompt states to require COVID-19 vaccines. 

"It hasn’t happened for the influenza vaccine," Schaffner said. "Everyone in the United States 6 months and older should be vaccinated against influenza on an annual basis. That’s been the recommendation from the CDC’s advisory committee for over a decade. I don’t believe there’s a single state that has a mandate for flu vaccines." 

Reiss confirmed that no state requires flu vaccines for school attendance and "only a minority" require it for daycare.

Our ruling

Carlson tweeted, "The CDC is about to add the COVID vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule, which would make the vax mandatory for kids to attend school."

That misrepresents the reach of the CDC’s immunization schedule. It is not a mandate. 

The CDC does not establish vaccination requirements for attending school or day care; states do that. Although state officials consider CDC recommendations when setting their immunization requirements, experts said no states follow the recommendations to the letter. 

The statement contains an element of truth because the vaccine was added to the childhood immunization schedule. But it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate this claim Mostly False.

PolitiFact reporter Jeff Cercone contributed research and reporting to this fact-check. PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed research to this report.

RELATED: Ask PolitiFact: Why is the COVID-19 vaccine not among required school vaccinations?

RELATED: Ask PolitiFact: Why were the recent COVID-19 boosters authorized before human trials were completed?

Our Sources

Interview with Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine in the health policy department and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Oct. 19, 2022

Email interview with Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a professor of law at UC Hastings, Oct. 19, 2022

Emailed statement from Kate Grusich, a CDC spokesperson, Oct. 19, 2022

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, An update on the CDC considering adding COVID vaccine to kids' immunization schedule, Oct. 19, 2022v

Tweet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 19, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Who sets the immunization schedule? accessed Oct. 19, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, About VFC, accessed Oct. 19, 2022

Internet Archive, Tucker Carlson Tonight - Fox News, Oct. 18, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ACIP meeting agenda Oct. 19-20, 2022, accessed Oct. 19, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State Vaccination Requirements, accessed Oct. 19, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccine: Interim COVID-19 iImmunization schedule for persons 6 months of age and older, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for young children, June 18, 2022

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Overview of COVID-19 vaccines, accessed Oct. 19, 2022

Mass.gov, School immunizations, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

Mass.gov, Massachusetts school immunization requirements 2022-2023, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

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Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Health rules, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

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Vermont Department of Health, Immunization information for child care and school providers, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

Vermont Department of Health, Vermont required and recommended child & teen vaccination schedule, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

Vermont Department of Health, Immunization schedule of vaccines required for child care,  accessed Oct. 20, 2022

Ohio Department of Health, Director's Journal - school requirements, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

Ohio Department of Health, Ohio immunization summary for school attendance, accessed Oct. 20, 2022

Emailed statement from Katie Warchut, a Vermont Department of Health spokesperson, Oct. 20, 2022 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Child and adolescent immunization schedule, Oct. 20, 2022

NBC News, CDC group endorses adding Covid shots to recommended vaccine schedule, Oct. 20, 2022 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ACIP immunization schedule vote, Oct. 20, 2022

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CDC committee’s vote did not make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for schoolchildren

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