Students across California will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school in-person starting as early as January.
Although the announcement was made today, the FDA has not yet fully approved any vaccines for people under 16 years old, but officials do have an expected timeline.
This new mandate will affect all students attending school in-person, regardless of if they go to a public or private school.
The plan will roll out in phases for various grade levels, which will depend on when FDA approves these age groups.
If a student happens to be in the right grade level but not old enough to meet FDA approval standards, they will have to wait.
Students who are not vaccinated have the option to do independent studies, and there will be exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
The requirement will not go into place until the next term following the FDA approval, which is why the two expected dates are either January 1 or July 1.
However, local districts are encouraged to begin requirements ahead of that schedule based on local circumstances.
The Chief of Communications for Bakersfield City School Districts, Tabatha Mills, told us they received the information at the same time as everyone, they are currently in the process of working to understand the new mandate and its implications for their district.
On the other hand, the spokesman for Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office said they did see this coming.
“Today’s announcement does not come as that big of a surprise. Frankly, the governor has said many times over the past several weeks that requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for school aged children, adding that to the list of the many vaccinations that have been required for decades, would be on the table and it would be something that would be considered,” said Superintendent Robert Meszaros.
The state will use the next couple of months to reach out to school districts to work out the details.
The Public Health Department says they will continue to serve as a resource to help schools interpret state guidance but are awaiting details on if there will be a partnership.
In the meantime, Meszaros believes the announcement is beneficial to the community: “We are in support of any COVID-19 mitigation strategies that are deemed necessary by our partners in Public Health, because at the end of the day this will lead to a healthier community and fewer distributions in our school systems.”
According to the state dashboard, a majority of school districts have reported that over 95% of students have returned to in-person instruction this school year.