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Bernie Sanders says he does not support forcing kids to get COVID-19 vaccine

Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

As schools debate resuming in-person classes full-time in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, pro-vaccine forces have debated requiring kids to get vaccinated before coming back to school now that it looks like at least Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will be approved for anyone 12 and older by next week.

But there's at least one well-known liberal lawmaker who may well stand in the way of such a requirement becoming a reality: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

What's happening?

Reports circulated Monday that the Food and Drug Administration is likely going to authorize emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children and teens ages 12 to 15 years as early as next week.

"The FDA is currently reviewing data submitted by Pfizer to support the extended use," CNN reported. "Pfizer said at the end of March that a clinical trial involving 2,260 12-to-15-year-olds showed its efficacy is 100% and it is well tolerated. The vaccine is currently authorized in the US for emergency use in people 16 and older."

The anticipated emergency use authorization has prompted debate about whether to mandate vaccinations for middle and high school students returning to classrooms, as 200 colleges and universities around the nation have already done.

Sharon Masling, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Morgan Lewis, told CNBC, “Like everything with COVID, this is going to be a school district by school district decision.

"Some school districts are going to want to be aggressive and see requiring vaccines as the way back to normal, whereas other school districts may want to move more slowly, especially in areas where there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy," she added.

What did Sen. Sanders say?

If Sen. Sanders has his way, vaccines will not be mandated for teenagers. The senator told WCAX-TV Wednesday that he did not believe the government should force student to get the shots.

Why? Because he said he does not think a lawmaker knows better than the parents.

"It's not my job to tell parents or kids to get vaccinated," Sanders told the outlet.

He said the government's job should be to make sure the inoculations are safe and that it appears that that is, indeed, the case for the current vaccine offerings.

"What we want to do is make sure that it is safe, and I think the evidence seems to suggest that it would be safe," Sanders said.

WCAX-TV asked him if he favored offering incentives to encourage teens to get vaccinated, but he wouldn't answer.

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