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National conversation is swirling about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine — specifically when one could be ready for mass consumption and how many doses would be available off the bat.

Multiple individuals in the area high school sports scene recently have expressed concern to The News-Gazette that some events — especially ones deemed higher-risk by the Illinois Department of Public Health — may not occur until a vaccine becomes public.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, National Federation of State High School Associations executive director, addressed a related question during last month’s media webinar put on by the organization.

Specifically, Niehoff was asked for the NFHS’s position on kids being required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to compete, once such a vaccine is available.

“In terms of a vaccine, I think that’s a very different level of comfort and requirement that really does involve a greater degree of decision-making by families,” Niehoff said. “At this point, our high schools and state associations are probably more comfortable with precautionary measures that are required — changing how kids come back to activity, handle equipment, handle practice situations.”

At the same time, Niehoff also was asked if the NFHS will require schools to inform opponents of a positive COVID-19 test within a team. Niehoff referred to privacy complications associated with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and an athlete’s age — specifically whether an individual is 18 years old.

“This is something we would really have to answer in collaboration with legal and medical expertise about what is required, and certainly pay attention to state statutes which may differ from state to state,” Niehoff said. “We would hope that our students and families, if there was a positive test, would be honest.”

Niehoff implied the NFHS is in a wait-and-see approach with regard to hard requirements for these particular coronavirus-related issues. It’s a similar tact to the one the organization took last May in offering suggestions for state associations looking to return to play.

“Vaccines I’m not so sure about requiring at this point,” Niehoff said. “But certainly other screening measures, I think we are starting to see those requirements.”


Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).