By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California will hold off implementing plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for school children until July 2023, state officials announced Thursday afternoon.
The state’s vaccine mandate for school children, announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom last October, is contingent upon full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In an announcement on Thursday, the California Department of Public Health noted that the vaccine has not yet been fully approved for all ages within the 7-12 grade span, which is a “precondition” to add it to a list of vaccines required for school attendance.
“To ensure sufficient time for successful implementation of new vaccine requirements, California will not initiate the regulatory process for a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the 2022-2023 school year and as such, any vaccine requirements would not take effect until after full FDA approval and no sooner than July 1, 2023,” the department said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
According to state data, 33.9% of 5-to-11-year-olds in California are fully vaccinated, while other age groups have much higher vaccine coverage rates. CDPH said Thursday that vaccines remain “the most powerful weapon against hospitalization and serious illness,” adding that they encourage individuals to get vaccinated.
The announcement from CDPH came just hours after a legislative proposal to require vaccines for schoolchildren was placed on hold.
Sacramento Democrat Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and chair of the Senate Health Committee, announced Thursday he would place Senate Bill 871 on hold. The bill would have required the COVID-19 vaccine for all California schoolchildren and taken away the option for a personal belief exemption – a key difference from the state mandate that would allow medical and personal belief exemptions.
Sen. Pan said that COVID-19 vaccination rates, “particularly among children,” are “insufficient,” saying the state should focus on increasing access to COVID-19 vaccinations for children through pediatricians and expand education efforts among families.
“Until children’s access to COVID vaccination is greatly improved, I believe that a state-wide policy to require COVID vaccination in schools is not the immediate priority, although it is an appropriate safety policy for many school districts in communities with good vaccine access,” Sen. Pan said in a statement.
Sen. Pan’s bill was one of several pieces of legislation that came out of a legislative Vaccine Work Group, which was formed to develop policy to slow the spread of COVID-19. Another bill from the group by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, was placed on hold in March. It would have mandated California businesses to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.Senate Bill 866, another task force bill, would allow kids 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine without parental consent.