Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday issued a mandate that would require all eligible schoolchildren in California to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The sweeping requirement is the first such action in the nation.
"While there continues to be encouraging signs and continuing to see progress with more and more people who maybe were on the fence, that are now getting the vaccine ... there's still a struggle to get to where we need to go, and that means we need to do more and we need to do better,'' Newsom said.
The mandate will not take immediate effect and would only become a requirement for schoolchildren in grades 7 through 12 in the semester following a full authorization of the vaccine for children ages 12 and older. Students who attend grades Kindergarten through the sixth grade would see the mandate phased in as the vaccine is authorized for younger children. State officials expect the mandate to take full effect by the fall 2022 semester.
Students who do not receive the vaccine will not be allowed to attend classes in-person, just as it would be for a student who did not take other required vaccines, like hepatitis B, tetanus, mumps, measles, polio and chickenpox. Newsom said medical and religious exemptions would also be made available to parents.
"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," Newsom wrote in a tweet about the mandate.
Local school districts would be responsible for enforcing the mandate, just as they are for the other childhood vaccines that are required by the state.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is currently available to those 16 and older, which has already been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Children 12 and older have also been able to get their shots thanks to an emergency authorization granted by the FDA. Full approval of the vaccine for children 12 and older is expected by November of this year.
Statewide, several school districts have already required students to get their COVID-19 vaccine including Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified. The mandate issued by LAUSD requires all students 12 and over who participate in in-person extracurricular activities to have their first vaccine dose no later than Sunday, and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. All other students must receive their first dose by Nov. 21 and their second by Dec. 19.
Younger students will have to receive their first dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday, and their second dose no later than eight weeks after turning 12.
California has made significant progress over the last few months in their vaccination rate. As of Oct 1st, more than 23 million people in California are fully vaccinated, with another 8.1% who are partially vaccinated.