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AG Jeff Landry sues over Louisiana school COVID vaccine requirement

child gets vaccinated louisiana
Shalina Chatlani
Children 5-11 in Louisiana and across the nation can receive COVID vaccines, as did Morgan, 7, on Nov. 4, 2021. Under a policy proposal from LDH, the vaccine will be added to the K-12 school immunization schedule.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry and Rep. Raymond Crews are suing Gov. John Bel Edwards over the inclusion of COVID-19 vaccines in Louisiana’s list of immunizations required for attendance at K-12 schools, universities and daycares, Landry announced Tuesday.

No hearing date has been set yet.

Edwards passed the rule, proposed by the state health department, earlier this week. It’s scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of the 2022 school year and applies only to vaccines that have been fully approved by the FDA. With current FDA approvals, only those ages 16 and older would be required to provide proof of vaccination or a written notice of exemption.

The Louisiana Department of Health is supervised by the Governor’s Office and its emergency rules can be enforced by the governor when a public health crisis is declared. For instance, the state’s mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation protocols came from emergency rules drafted by the health department and executed by Edwards.

However, LDH’s updated immunization schedule wasn’t proposed as an emergency rule. The rule went to the state House Health and Welfare Oversight Committee last week for review and was rejected in a 13-2 vote.

Edwards moved forward with passing the rule after providing written dissent with the committee’s decision and reasoning for the rule’s passage in a letter to Committee Chairman Larry Bagley (R-Stonewall), as is required by state law.

The lawsuit, which aims to overturn the new rule, argues that the law that allowed Edwards to overrule the committee’s decision is unconstitutional because it enables the governor’s office to exercise “power belonging to the legislative branch of government.”

Landry isn’t arguing that the updated immunization schedule itself is unconstitutional, but rather that the method Edwards used to pass the measure should be struck down and the rule’s passage nullified.

Landry has previously challenged vaccine mandates in healthcare settings and for federal contractors. He has also challenged mask mandates in Louisiana’s schools.

His arguments lie on the assumption that citizens should be able to determine their own healthcare choices, but Edwards has criticized Landry’s arguments for being “irresponsible” and “dangerous” in the context of an ongoing public health crisis.

Aubry is a reporter, producer and operations assistant in Baton Rouge.