Louisiana AG challenges state agency plan to require COVID vaccinations for students

Attorney General Jeff Landry says Department of Health on Monday is unconstitutional.

Updated: November 22, 2021 - 11:45pm

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Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sent a letter to the state Department of Health on Monday asserting the department’s plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students is unconstitutional.

The letter also laid out steps for the Louisiana Legislature to curtail the measure, which stands to be implemented through the executive branch health agency.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and state-level health officials have embraced COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible Louisianans. Landry, a conservative Republican, supports vaccinations while opposing government mandates.

If the new rule in finalized, COVID-19 vaccinations would be added to the list of required immunizations to attend K-12 schools, effectively mandating them for hundreds of thousands of children.

“Today I have sent a letter to the Louisiana Department of Health informing them of fatal flaws that exist with this attempted rule,” Landry said in a statement. “It is my hope that our elected representatives act in protection of our medical freedoms.”

The letter, addressed to Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips, warns the Health Department is exceeding its authority by requiring “an mRNA injection that does not prevent disease” – a reference to the notion that vaccinated individuals still may get infected and transmit the virus.

Requests for comment Monday from the Department of Health were not returned.

Landry wrote the Legislature only has authorized the department’s Office of Public Health to approve immunizations for “vaccine-preventable diseases,” and Louisiana would join California as the only states in the country to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for school entry.

“Louisiana’s proposed rule goes even further than the California governor’s executive order as it goes so far as to require vaccination of elementary school children, whereas California only requires COVID-19 shots for middle and high school students and is not effective until July of 2022,” the letter read.

The Department of Health released a “notice of intent” Sept. 20 to amend the list of required K-12 vaccinations, as required by the Administrative Procedures Act.

“The proposed amendments add vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 to the list of required vaccinations for school entry to the extent that such vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the individual’s age, and also require such vaccines, and all potential boosters, on the same basis for school attendance,” the notice read.

Neither the governor’s office nor the Department of Health issued press releases or otherwise promoted key aspects of the mandate’s rule-making process. According to the September notice, the window to request a public hearing expired Oct. 10, and a required public comment period expired Oct. 28.

Landry said Monday parents, grandparents and legal guardians of school children have been “muzzled” and kept from participating in the process.

“Coercion is not consent,” he said.

Edwards and State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter endorsed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) formal recommendation Nov. 3 for children ages 5-11 to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The recommendation followed FDA approval and coincided with the Department of Health alerting Louisiana vaccine providers to begin administering vaccinations to eligible children appropriately.

“This is exactly the news we’ve been waiting to hear, and I’m especially glad that the best protection we have against COVID-19 is now being afforded to our children ages 5-11,” Edwards said.