Email Points to Pritzker Wanting to Require Covid Vax for School
The Governor of a Million Mandates isn't wasting any time.
When Chicago reporter Amy Jacobson recently asked Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker about requiring the covid-19 vaccine for schoolchildren, he said he would leave that decision to legislators.
But internal emails from the Illinois Department of Public Health1 suggest Prtizker is looking into adding the covid shot to the list of school vaccines through a process that doesn’t involve full Legislative approval.
On October 27th, a few hours after Pritzker put the onus for school shots on lawmakers, a question from the Governor’s Office was raised in an email thread between IDPH staff2.
Deputy director Shannon Lightner wrote, “From the GO [Governor’s Office]: To add immunizations, do we have to go through the Committee and have three hearings?”
Heidi Clark, Division Chief of Infectious Diseases, replied, “That seems to be the case…No statutory changes are necessary, which is a plus, but those meetings would be pretty rough, I’m sure…”
Clark also summarized steps outlined in the Communicable Disease Prevention Act that involve the IDPH Director, the Immunization Advisory Committee, and State Board of Health. The law requires three public hearings, geographically distributed throughout the state, before the Board of Health can recommend the Director prescribe a rule change.3
The email chain starts with a message from the office of Illinois state representative Dagmara Avelar, who had been hearing from constitutes after the CDC Committee vote on October 22nd.
“What would the process be to mandate the COVID vaccine for children to enter school?” Avelar’s staffer asked Allison Nickrent, division chief of governmental affairs for IDPH. “Do you know if there is something in the works? Is it within the Governor’s executive powers to mandate this?”
There’s no response from IDPH to Avelar’s office in the set of partially-redacted emails I obtained. There is, however, some back and forth between the IDPH staff about the membership of and meeting schedule for the Immunization Advisory Committee (IAC). That group would have to recommend the vaccine be added to the school schedule before the rest of the process moves forward.4
The Writing’s on the Wall
After 2+ years of mandates and orders, most Illinois parents know exactly what “do we have to go through the Committee and have three hearings?” means when the Governor’s Office is asking the question. This is the same Administration that used state agencies & Democrat lawmakers to suppress religious objections to other Covid-related mandates, including in schools. If re-elected, Pritzker almost certainly will do everything he can to work around existing rules & laws related to putting the covid shot on the list of vaccines required to attend school in Illinois.
Ironically, Pritzker has been positioning himself as a champion of bodily autonomy and women’s health, vigorously defending state abortion laws that aren’t at risk of changing anytime soon.
Do not be fooled. On school vax and other children’s health issues, the most destructive Governor in state history isn’t about to let parental authority get in his way.
Update: Illinois Pediatric Covid-19 Vaccination Rates
IDPH staff on the chain include Sameer Vohra (IDPH Director), Shannon Lightner (IDPH Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Director of the Office of Women's Health and Family Services), Arti Barnes (Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer), Allison Nickrent (Division Chief of Governmental Affairs, Heidi Clark (Division Chief of Infectious Diseases), and Laura Vaught (Director of Legislative Affairs).
Changes/additions to rules are subject to approval by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), a smaller group of Legislators with bipartisan representation.
The IAC convenes yearly; the last time was December 2021.