SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a COVID vaccine mandate for eligible school children on Friday morning.
Newsom said the mandate is for children ages 16-18 and will be added to the list of necessary vaccines and immunizations school children will need to have for in-person learning.
Newsom also said that when the FDA approves vaccines for children ages 5-11, they will need to have a COVID vaccine during the next school cycle, depending on when it's approved, either Jan. 1 or July 1st.
“Once the FDA approves the vaccination in different cohorts starting with 12 and above, grades seven to 12, we will begin to apply that requirement in the next term, either Jan. 1 or July 1, whichever comes sooner,” said Newsom.
Newsom said the state government wants to see all school staff get vaccinated during the first phase of vaccination requirements involving grades seven through 12.
The mandate he announced Friday won’t take effect immediately and won’t apply to all students. First the vaccines must have final approval by the federal government for specific age groups.
Students can seek both religious and medical exemptions. Students who refuse to be vaccinated will have to take independent study courses at home. All school employees will have to be vaccinated by the time the mandate kicks in for students, eliminating a weekly testing option.
The state won't stop districts that want to move more quickly.
In recent weeks, California implemented the following measures to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Vaccine verification for state workers. Requires all state workers to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, and encourages local governments and other employers to adopt a similar protocol. Following California’s announcement, some of the largest California businesses and local governments followed suit, as did the federal government.
- Vaccinations for health care workers. Requires workers in health care settings to be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose by September 30, 2021.
- Universal masking in K-12 settings. Aligned with guidance from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, California was the first state to implement universal masking in school settings to keep students and staff safe while optimizing fully in-person instruction.
- Medi-Cal vaccination incentives. $350 million in incentive payments to help close the vaccination gap between Medi-Cal beneficiaries and Californians as a whole, significantly stepping up outreach in underserved communities.
- Statewide mask recommendation. In response to the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new CDC guidance calling for masking, the state recommended mask use for indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19. Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom,” said Governor Newsom. “Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Statements in Support of the Mandate:
“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures,” said California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd. “Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant.”
“Worker-led school safety protocols have created the model for safe school reopening, and many school workers have already created similar agreements,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director and SEIU California Executive Board Member Max Arias. “Workers and employers sitting down at the bargaining table is the most effective way to create and implement vaccine policies for the benefit of the entire school community.”
“We want to do everything possible to protect our most vulnerable children and ensure that all children can return to school as safely as possible,” said California State PTA President Carol Green. “We stand by our position that educators are essential workers and support the safe opening of schools to in person instruction.”
“Combining this policy with mitigation measures like masking, hand washing, and good ventilation will ensure we are doing everything possible to keep schools safe for in-person learning. We applaud the Governor’s efforts to provide a framework that works toward this goal,” said California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas.
“While we hope that all employees will ultimately decide to be vaccinated, we look forward to working with the Governor’s administration on the necessary staffing and operations support required to conduct employee COVID testing in our schools,” said Association of California School Administrators President Charlie Hoffman.
“A vaccine requirement for education staff, as announced by Governor Newsom, is a necessary step, one that aligns with the science, and public health recommendations to create the safest environment possible as we reopen our campuses,” said California County Superintendents Educational Services Association President and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L.K. Monroe.
“CCSA supports the orders by the California Department of Public Health to mitigate transmission and ensure a safe return to in-person learning,” said California Charter Schools Association President and CEO Myrna Castrejón. “We urge all educators and school staff to get vaccinated to keep yourselves and students safe.”