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Depts. of Education, Health don't plan to require Pennsylvania students, teachers to get COVID-19 vaccine to return to school

Pa. Education Secretary Noe Ortega said on FOX43 Morning News that the Department of Education does not intend to require a COVID-19 vaccine for students or staff.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Pennsylvania Education Secretary Noe Ortega said that the Department of Education does not intend to require a COVID-19 for vaccine for students or staff once more are made available.

During FOX43 Capitol Beat with Matt Maisel, Ortega said, "Ultimately, the discretions around the vaccinations rest with the Department of Health, Matt. It is not our intention to require a vaccine, but to leave that to the local discretion."

Ortega also thanked parents and teachers for their commendable response during the pandemic, and finished by saying, "folks need to make a decision that's best for them, but also for others. So, I just wanted to leave that out there in regards to our stance on vaccinations."

The Pa. Department of Health says they have no plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, but it strongly suggests Pennsylvanians receive the vaccine to best prevent contracting the virus.

Currently, the only FDA COVID-19 vaccine with emergency use authorization for those below age 16 is the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved for those ages 12-15.

“Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations," Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. 

Penn State Health Children's Hospital infectious diseases physician, Dr. Jessica Ericson says she understands why some parents may worry, but these side effects are rare.

"The overall bad things happening from the vaccine are incredibly uncommon, said Dr. Ericson, "it's much more common to have serious complications from COVID-19 infection."

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