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N.C. Commission for Public Health votes against COVID-19 vaccine mandate proposal

A screenshot of State Assistant Attorney General John Barkley explaining the process behind amending immunization policy over Zoom on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.

The North Carolina Commission for Public Health on Wednesday voted unanimously against a proposal that would have mandated a COVID-19 vaccine for students 17 and older in the state.

The petition was submitted on Oct. 27. The commission was required to make a decision on the petition within 120 days of receiving it. This followed a previous petition for administrative review that was submitted on Oct. 1 and signed by over 200 UNC System faculty.

The proposed mandate had already received opposition from leaders across the state, including Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley, who both said instituting a mandate now is too early.

“We have a number of vaccines that are mandatory but have undergone a lot more history and scrutiny,” Cooper said in an interview with the News and Observer. “And I think that I’m going to agree with my health officials that at this point it’s not time to do that.”

Commission member Ritesh Patel said he believes it is too early to consider COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He said some of these standards are different for other immunizations that have been in circulation for longer. 

Commission member Gene Minton said he is concerned about the long-term effects of the vaccine on young children.

“I think the last (group) we’re in a position to require is the ones who seem to be least affected, which is the young people," Minton said in the meeting. "And there are no long-term studies in young people about the effect of this vaccine.” 

Michael Riccobene, also a member of the commission, said although he has been vaccinated and boosted, he has chosen to not vaccinate his children.

“I have chosen not to vaccinate my children," he said. "I think every parent and adult should have the right to choose whether or not they receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

Wednesday's vote follows months of groups on UNC's campus advocating for the University to institute a vaccine mandate. University administration previously said the UNC System advised campuses that only the commission had the authority to approve a vaccine mandate.


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