Following the implementation of first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination measures on Friday, California became the first state to announce a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all public and private school children, affecting millions of students and putting the state at the forefront of strict pandemic safety measures once again.
Gov. Gavin Newsom Orders Vaccine Mandate Among the Eligible Students
“CA will require our kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine to come to school. This will go into effect following full FDA approval. Our schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps, and more. Why? Because vaccines work. This is about keeping our kids safe & healthy,” Governor Gavin Newsom wrote in a tweet.
Vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 are not yet available. However, Pfizer is expected to apply for emergency-use authorization, citing trial evidence that the shots are safe and effective for that age group. According to the Associated Press, the shots for those children could be available around Thanksgiving, but full approval would likely be months away.
When the COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for middle and high school grades, Governor Newsom plans to add it to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person.
Parents Personal beliefs
Unlike other vaccines required for schoolchildren, the plan would allow parents to refuse to immunize their children against COVID-19 based on personal beliefs. Because the new vaccination requirement is being imposed through a regulatory process rather than through the Legislature, the exemption for personal beliefs would have to be permitted under state law that has previously applied to similar circumstances.
Later, legislators and the governor could pass legislation to end the personal-belief exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a strict vaccine law in 2015, eliminating personal belief or religious exemptions for older vaccines and allowing only medical exemptions. The law was enacted in response to declining childhood vaccination rates, and a measles outbreak at Disneyland spread to seven other states, Canada and Mexico.
If parents do not submit a waiver for a medical or personal-belief exemption for the COVID-19 vaccination, their children will be unable to enroll in on-campus classes. Unvaccinated students will have the option of enrolling in a fully online school, participating in district-sponsored independent-study programs, or being home-schooled.
It will be up to schools and districts to enforce the mandate, just as with other mandatory vaccines.
Debra Duardo, Superintendent of Schools for Los Angeles County, stated her support for the governor’s vaccine mandate, saying, “Our students deserve stability, access to school-based resources, services, and support.”
“We are mindful that there is still work to do to build trust and confidence in the vaccine among our school communities,” Duardo said in a statement.
Duardo said the Los Angeles County Office of Education “will convene a working task force of superintendents to support the implementation of this requirement in schools throughout LA County.”
The California Teachers Association also supported the mandate. “Teaching and learning are most effective in person,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd said in a statement. “The COVID-19 vaccine is a proven measure to prevent life-threatening illness, keeping schools safe and open for in-person instruction, and will bring us closer to being able to put this devastating pandemic behind us.”
According to Boyd, 90% of CTA members are vaccinated, and “an overwhelming majority supports a vaccine mandate for students and staff.”
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