Louisiana Department of Health official addresses COVID-19 misinformation

Staff Report
Dana Bynum comforts her son, Calvin, after receiving his second COVID-19 vaccination.

The Louisiana Department of Health pushed back against what it called COVID-19 misinformation at a meeting of the House Committee on Health and Welfare.

During the meeting, several speakers voiced opposition to mandating vaccination.

LDH has been moving through the process to add the coronavirus vaccine to the School Immunization schedule. The proposed rule is being promulgated through the normal, deliberate and transparent rule-making process, according to a department news release.

“The intentional spread of health disinformation is especially dangerous during a pandemic because it confuses and can mislead families who have legitimate questions,” State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said in the statement. “The Louisiana Department of Health is committed and will continue to share the facts but we alone can’t win the fight against dis- and misinformation. To do so will take all of us – and it starts with us demanding better. Many of us spread misinformation unintentionally; we are trying to inform others who don’t realize the information is false. If you’re not sure, don’t share.”

LDH's release added U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has warned that health misinformation poses a grave threat to the nation and is costing U.S. lives during the pandemic.

The department outlined key facts: 

  • LDH is proposing for the COVID-19 vaccine to be added to the School Immunization Schedule only for ages which have received full licensure and approval from the FDA, which currently is ages 16 and up. Full licensure and approval from the FDA signify the very highest endorsement of safety and efficacy from the U.S. government.
  • Louisiana law allows parents to easily exempt their child from a vaccine on the Immunization Schedule by simply claiming a medical, religious or personal/philosophical exemption. If COVID-19 is added to the schedule parents will be easily able to exempt their children from this vaccine as well.
  • No one is immune to COVID-19 and its severe outcomes, including children. Over 25 percent of COVID-19 infections in Louisiana have been in children, resulting in 18 deaths and over 275 cases of Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

A copy of the testimony has been included with the release.

During the meeting, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales started with an opening statement.

He said LDH does not have the authority to move forward with the proposal.

Attorney General Jeff Landry spoke during the meeting, advising the committee that adding the vaccine is "not permitted under state law."

He said California is the only other state in the country requiring vaccination for school-age children.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and a nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, also addressed the committee. According to numerous media reports, he has been an outspoken critic of vaccines.

Among the elected officials to speak was Rep. Laurie Schlegel of District 82 in the New Orleans area. She said she has been vaccinated but opposes the mandate.

Gonzales area Rep. Kathy Edmonston of District 88 said she has been working with constituents to navigate vaccine mandates since February.

Edmonston said "not one person" has told her the COVID-19 vaccination should be added to the schedule.

"Please oppose this rule change and stand for the people of Louisiana," she concluded.

The committee's 13-2 vote was led by Republican Chair Larry Bagley's motion to reject. Three Democrats and an Independent joined all nine Republicans in voting against the recommendation. Democratic Reps. Robby Carter of Amite and Dustin Miller of Opelousas were the only no votes.