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Explore potential ramifications of mandating COVID vaccines for school entry

September 19, 2022

Editor's note:  For more coverage of the 2022 AAP National Conference & Exhibition, visit

Most pediatricians agree children should be vaccinated against COVID-19. But when it comes to school vaccine mandates, opinions converge.

Shaquita L. Bell, M.D., FAAP, and Douglas J. Opel, M.D., M.P.H., will help pediatricians think through the issues associated with such mandates during an interactive workshop titled “Should COVID-19 Vaccines Be Required for School Entry? Rationale, Risks, and Racism.” The session will be held from 2-3:30 p.m. PDT Saturday, Oct. 8 (I2443) in room 207CD of the convention center and from 8:30-10 a.m. PDT Sunday, Oct. 9 (I3140) in room 205.

“This isn't a question of should we vaccinate? This is a question of what's the best approach to getting as many people vaccinated on time,” Dr. Opel said.

Dr. Bell and Dr. Opel will discuss the purpose of vaccine mandates, criteria that states and others should consider to determine if mandates are the best course of action and the potential for mandates to exacerbate racial inequities and disparities.

“It's not going to be so much one opinion or one view versus the other but more of a discussion of all the different aspects that should be considered when we think about vaccines on a public health population level,” said Dr. Bell, clinical professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children's Hospital.

The issue of vaccine mandates for students was a hot topic before COVID, noted Dr. Opel, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children's Hospital.

A bioethicist, Dr. Opel was involved in discussions regarding criteria that were being used to determine whether the HPV vaccine should be mandated for school entry. The criteria have been revisited as states consider COVID vaccine mandates and address issues such as whether the vaccine has an acceptable level of adverse effects, is effective in preventing disease transmission and is acceptable to the public.

The session will show how these ethical discussions and equity are intertwined, said Dr. Bell, a member of the AAP Section on Minority Health, Equity and Inclusion. “You can't offer ethical care if it's not equitable and vice versa.”

Dr. Bell said she hopes the session arms pediatricians with information about issues to consider regarding COVID vaccine mandates so they can counsel patients, school districts, state representatives and others. “I think you (will) get an introduction to how to make a decision using principles and not just emotions.”

Added Dr. Opel: “Our purpose is that folks feel informed about the criteria, the rationale, the risks, the potential ramifications of mandating so that folks can really feel like they can contribute in meaningful ways to their communities on this important issue.”

For more information on the National Conference, visit View the conference schedule at


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