Newsom makes first-in-the-nation commitment to vaccine mandate for schoolchildren

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School joins hundreds of school reopening across Los Angeles County. (Mayra Beltran Vasquez / Los Angeles County )

The mandate applies to all children attending school who are eligible for the vaccine, pending FDA approval

Schoolchildren in California who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine will now be required to get their shots in order to attend in-person schools, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday, Oct. 1.

Newsom’s announcement makes California the first state to push for a vaccine mandate for schoolchildren.

The governor said that the mandate won’t take effect until the federal government has completed vetting the COVID-19 vaccine for two age groups: 12 to 15 and 5 to 11. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency authorization to vaccine kids between 12 and 15, and full approval is likely to come in the coming months; clinical tests are still being conducted for children aged 5 to 11.

This mandate — which is predicted to affect the state’s nearly 7 million public and private school students — follows other safeguards that Newsom imposed for in-person learning, like the mask mandate and the vaccine/weekly testing mandate for teachers and school staff.

But once the vaccine requirement for students is cleared, all school staff will be required to be vaccinated, and the option for weekly testing will be terminated.

“We have to do more. We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it,” Newsom said during a press conference on Friday at a San Francisco junior high school.

According to projections by the state, the vetting process for the two age brackets in question will mean that those in seventh to 12th grades will likely have until the summer of 2022 to get their shots. Because the government has yet to approve any vaccine for younger children, it’ll take longer for children in kindergarten through sixth grades.

“There’s still a struggle to get where we need to go, and that means we need to do more and we need to do better,” Newsom said, adding that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate shouldn’t be a surprise as schoolchildren are mandated for vaccines against measles, mumps, and other diseases.

“In many ways, it’s the most predictable announcement throughout this pandemic,” the governor said.

Like other vaccines, exemptions stemmed from medical reasons and religious beliefs will be honored with approval, Newsom clarified.

Newsom’s announcement comes as vaccinations among teenagers have halted. As of Oct. 1, about 64% of residents in the state aged 12 to 17 have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

School districts, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, across the state have already implemented their own vaccine mandates for eligible students attending in-person classes.

Vaccine mandates made during the COVID-19 pandemic have boosted vaccination rates in industries and institutions across the country. California was the first state in the nation to mandate vaccines for health care workers, a measure that was put into effect on Thursday, Sept. 30.

This requirement for healthcare workers was extended on Tuesday to include in-home, hospice, disability center and senior center health care workers, all of whom have until Nov. 30 to get their shots. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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