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Idaho schools won't require COVID-19 vaccines, state superintendent says

Lawmakers would have to pass legislation to require COVID-19 vaccines in schools but no discussions were held on the topic during the 2021 legislative session.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho students are required to get certain vaccines to enroll in school, including but not limited to measles, mumps, and tetanus. However, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said a required COVID-19 vaccine is not on the radar for Idaho public schools.

“I do sit on the coronavirus working group representing schools for the State of Idaho,” Ybarra said. “I have not heard any conversations around that yet.”

Required vaccines are listed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and required by law in Idaho Statutes Title 39, Chapter 48.

State lawmakers would have to draft and pass legislation to require a COVID-19 vaccine in schools, and there were no discussions in the 2021 session about the matter. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare also said there are no plans for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine in schools.

“It's important to remember that the vaccine is only available – through Pfizer – for ages 12 and up right now,” Ybarra said. “So I think the focus has been on really making sure that those at-risk populations have gotten the vaccine.”

Ybarra said she would like all eligible Idaho students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but will never support a law that requires it.

“I am a vaccine supporter, but I am never going to support something being mandatory,” the superintendent said. “I am more about resources, making sure parents know what their options are, and making sure they are educated around those options.”

Even if a COVID-19 vaccine was made mandatory, any parent has the right to opt their child out of a required vaccine for religious and/or medical reasons.

COVID-19 vaccines may not be mandatory in schools right now, but many schools are hosting optional vaccine clinics. This has already been done in the Boise, Vallivue, and Caldwell School Districts.

Superintendent Ybarra said she supports the continuation of these types of optional programs across the state.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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