BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — While COVID-19 vaccinations will not be required for school children to attend classes in the 2022-23 school year, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is doubling down on its assertion that school children should be vaccinated as cases are starting to rise again.

“The FDA has not yet fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine for those under the age of 16; therefore, at the start of the 2022 school year, students in Louisiana will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” stated LDH officials in a press release. “We have the utmost confidence in the rigorous FDA processes; however, they do take time.”

LDH officials said they had expected the full FDA approval of child vaccinations to be further along than it is now.

Since March 2020, Louisiana has lost 21 children to COVID, none of whom were up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, according to LDH. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the LDH are all recommending vaccinating your children ages 5-17 as the best way to protect them against COVID-19. According to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death among children ages 5-14 and young people ages 15-24 in January 2022.

LDH said it has also confirmed 331 cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) — a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. MIS-C is strongly linked to COVID-19 infection and vaccination appears effective at reducing the likelihood of developing MIS-C.

“The COVID-19 lull we enjoyed following the Omicron surge earlier this year is starting to reverse itself,” stated the LDH press release. “While hospitalizations remain low at this time, cases, percent positivity, and emergency department visits for COVID-like illness are all increasing statewide.”