Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Thursday expressed support for COVID-19 vaccination requirements for eligible students, saying that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's full approval of shots for some young people should open the door for state officials to institute plans to start vaccinations, according to Politico.
"Not only do I support it, but I'm encouraging states to come up with a plan to make sure it happens," Cardona told the outlet. "I would like governors who hold those decisions to make those decisions now that [vaccines] are FDA-approved."
"There's a reason why we're not talking about measles today," he said, according to Politico. "It was a required vaccination, and we put it behind us. So I do believe at this point we need to be moving forward."
The Washington Post reported that Cardona said Thursday that he backs mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for older teenagers. Here's more from the Post:
"I wholeheartedly support it," he said. "It's the best tool that we have to safely reopen schools and keep them open. We don't want to have the yo-yo effect that many districts had last year, and we can prevent that by getting vaccinated."
Cardona said that in general, he believes governors, not school superintendents, should implement the mandates. "I really want to make sure that governors and health officials are driving the communication around public health measures, which vaccinations are," he said.
Cardona had been hesitant to vigorously promote vaccination, but he said that changed after the FDA gave full approval of a coronavirus vaccine for those ages 16 and up. Those ages 12-15 are eligible for shots under an emergency authorization.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the FDA for people 16 and older and remains available for teens 12 to 15 years old under an emergency use authorization.
"Governors should work with their school officials and with their health officials to roll out requirements, especially in areas that are high-spread, and where students might be at risk for going back to remote learning, or hybrid learning, as a result of the spread of COVID-19," he said, according to Politico.
"This is about safely reopening schools," he said. "And what we know, based on not only on the COVID-19 vaccine, but the other vaccines that are already mandatory for school enrollment, is that they work. Our students have been disrupted enough, and sometimes you have to be crystal clear on what you believe."