How COVID-19 vaccines can become requirements in the state of Florida

ST. JOHNS, Fla. — Just last week, the St. Johns County Superintendent decided face masks would be optional next school year, but what about another layer of protection: vaccines?

Action News Jax reporter Jessica Barreto ultimately found out that neither St. Johns Schools nor any local district will be able to make that decision. It all comes down to what the state decides.

Kyle Dresback, Associate Superintendent for Student Support at St. Johns County Schools, explained what went into the school district’s decision to make mask-wearing optional.

“We don’t want any unnecessary protocols that like anyone else, you know, I have children, most of the district staff have children, either in the system or have gone through the system, and so we want to make sure that we’re doing right by our families. But we also want to make sure that we’re following protocols from the science agencies,” he said.

Having vaccines available for kids ages 12 and up contributed to this decision.

“What we wanna do is, is that we wanna make sure that we’re following the science, and the CDC is what we’ve been following all along,” Dresback added.

Vaccine requirements vary state-by-state.

This is the list of vaccines currently required in the state of Florida:

  • • Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTAP)
  • • Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV)
  • • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • • Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (HIB)
  • • Pneumococcal Conjugate (PCV13)
  • • Hepatitis B (HEP B)

“We do have statutory requirements for vaccinations to be in school, COVID-19 vaccinations is not one of those,” Dresback explained.

Before a school can add an approved vaccine to the list of immunizations required, the CDC’s website says the CDC would have to add it to its list of childhood immunizations.

After that, the Florida State Legislature would have to vote on whether or not to require it.

In St. Johns County, a school would only need to know a student’s COVID vaccination status if there’s a positive COVID case and they need to do contact tracing.

“That would be the only time that we would verify or look up if they’ve received the vaccination, otherwise we wouldn’t need to know,” Dresback pointed out.

Action News Jax contacted the Florida Department of Health - Duval County about how a vaccine gets added to the required list.

The FDOH said “The addition of a vaccine to the required list in Florida is not a local decision” and referred us to the state’s Bureau of Immunization.