Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signaled opposition to mandating coronavirus vaccines for children to attend school during Michigan’s final gubernatorial debate before Election Day.
Whitmer was asked during Tuesday’s debate about new guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging children to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“I do not support requiring the COVID vaccine for children,” said Whitmer, who proceeded to defend her record of battling the pandemic. “We made quick decisions to save lives and studies show we saved 1000s. I am proud of that.”
Polls show Whitmer locked in a tough reelection battle against Tudor Dixon, the GOP nominee for governor. Dixon, a mother of four and conservative commentator, has sought to make Whitmer’s leadership throughout the pandemic a top issue in the contest.
“Like many of you, I had a small business crushed [by coronavirus lockdowns]. Like many of you I lost a loved one,” said Dixon. “Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t want to be defined by her carelessness or dishonesty or her hypocrisy during that time.”
Earlier this month, the CDC voted to add coronavirus inoculation to the Vaccines for Children Program. The inclusion does not make the shots mandatory for children but places it on a list of recommended vaccinations the CDC provides to physicians.
GOP governors have largely denounced the guidelines, pledging to block school districts from adopting a coronavirus vaccination as a prerequisite for attendance.
“I will never mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for Idahoans of any age group, especially children,” said Gov. Brad Little, R-Idaho. “As long as I am governor, that decision will be determined solely by parents, families and individual citizens.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a potential front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, even argued that, given the relatively new nature of the coronavirus vaccine, the shot might not be suitable for young children.
“I get a kick out of it when people kind of compare it to (measles, mumps and rubella shots) and things that have been around for decades and decades,” said DeSantis. “These are new shots.”
Democratic governors have largely remained silent, however. Some, like Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, say the new guidelines have no immediate impact on either children or parents.
“The main impact of the CDC recommendation is that health insurance companies will be required to cover the cost of the immunization and that the federal government can continue to provide it for free to low-income families,” a spokesman for Newsom said. “It’s interesting that Republican states are criticizing this as schools already require vaccinations for chickenpox, polio, measles and more.”