Sen. Manny Diaz insisted Friday there will be no changes to the current list of vaccines required in schools, a move intended to tap down the backlash that flared up after the Hialeah Republican said he was open to reviewing them.
Diaz, chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee, suggested it was time to look at school vaccine mandates during a Florida Politics interview discussing his plans for the upcoming 2022 Legislative Session beginning in January.
But in a statement to Florida Politics on Friday, Diaz said: “I in no way, shape, or form intend to change the existing vaccination statutes for Florida schoolchildren.”
Diaz made it clear that he remains firmly opposed to mandates associated with COVID-19 vaccines: “However, I will stand on the side of freedom and the state retaining its power to review any emergency vaccination use imposed by the federal government.”
He added that “I do believe a review is necessary if and when any new government-mandated vaccinations are introduced.”
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said last week he supports making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for eligible school children.
The Food and Drug Administration has given full authorization to the use of the Pfizer vaccine to those 16 and older, while vaccines are approved for emergency use for children 12 to 15.
Florida law requires a long line of vaccines for children attending school and day care, including measles, mumps, polio and chickenpox. The law does allow parents to exempt their children for religious or medical reasons.
Diaz’s decision to back away from any talk of tampering with existing school vaccine mandates comes after days of sharp criticism, most of it coming from Democrats.
Sen. Annette Taddeo said on Twitter, “I’m in utter disbelief. Not only would this be dangerous, but it’s a move to motivate the anti-vax base. When was the last time we saw cases of measles, mumps, or even chickenpox?? VACCINES WORK.”
Vaccine mandates were already a heated and contentious issue in Florida before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Lauren Book two years ago filed a bill that would have eliminated religious exemptions for current school vaccine requirements, but she withdrew the legislation before the 2020 Session after a ferocious outpouring from those opposed to vaccines.