Only families should decide whether 5-year-olds get COVID shots

A growing number of parents and families from the 19th Legislative District, and throughout Washington state, have reached out to me, sharing their concerns that the governor may soon mandate children as young as five years old get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend public school. 

Their concerns are valid. The governor has issued several constitutionally dubious mandates over the past 600-plus days that make no Washingtonian, even a five-year-old, safe from his ham-fisted actions.

This week, the governor heightened parental concerns by releasing a poorly written statement in which he encouraged the vaccination of children ages five- to 11-years-old. The governor stated that doing so moved the state “closer to having the entire population of Washington” vaccinated.

In the statement, the governor cited a report from the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup — a committee of academics and public health bureaucrats created to justify the political agendas of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, and several of their less-important partisan allies. 

The workgroup’s report does not contain any original scientific research. It merely restates conclusions reached by the federal U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — reading like a kind of book report or Cliffs Notes. The report repeats the feds’ findings that, although the Pfizer/BioNTech shot remains available to the public only under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), preliminary tests on young children had produced reactions “similar to those seen in adolescents and adults” and that “its use…as a two-dose series of 10 µg per dose given three weeks apart” posed acceptable risks. Unfortunately, in the governor’s statement, he implied something more, claiming the workgroup had “confirmed the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.”

Interestingly, the workgroup ended its report on the FDA and CDC research with this note: “The workgroup…urges that all suspected adverse events following receipt of the vaccine be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).” In the past, Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration has questioned the reliability of VAERS data. This is just one more example of the governor’s inconsistency. Separately, he has staggered between dismissing the reliability of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and relying on them in his various COVID-related edicts.

Not all medical researchers agree with the Workgroup’s conclusions. Credible sources have questioned the wisdom of forcing COVID shots on kids. In a widely cited article, a group of doctors led by UW School of Medicine professor Douglas Opel, wrote: “it would be difficult to justify requiring a COVID-19 vaccine in children for a disease that appears to be mild in most children, particularly if children play a minimal role in spreading the infection to others.”

All of this makes reasonable Washingtonians believe politics, not science, drives the governor’s actions. That’s why so many parents and families are reaching out to me. They’ve seen things like the governor’s recent statement before. Over the 600-plus days of the misused COVID emergency declaration, this governor has often set up his unconstitutional actions with misleading references to scientific sources. And, he has doubled down with threatening rhetoric, like calling the unvaccinated “insubordinate” or a “bioreactor facility.” Even worse, he’s fired them from their state government jobs.

Washington families deserve better. Informed medical choice is just that: a choice, even when it means saying no. Parents, grandparents, and guardians must have the authority — the sole authority — to decide whether their little ones get COVID shots available only under an EUA deal.

Unlike COVID shot mandates for adults, there is clear and long-established Washington law describing how certain vaccines can be required for children who attend public school. This law contains clear guidelines families can follow to request exemptions to those requirements. 

If the governor attempts to waive or suspend this long-established law to evade its wisdom and mandate young children get COVID shots, he will descend to a new low of autocratic abuse; and invite the justified wrath of families all around Washington state. The governor must not use the emergency powers that we, the people, have given him to force five-year-old children to take COVID shots.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, represents the 19th Legislative District, and serves as the ranking member on the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
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