By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) – Children ages 5 to 11 residing in San Francisco could be required to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor spaces like restaurants and sports venues roughly two months from now, San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said last week.
The health officer spoke of the pending requirement during a virtual town hall Tuesday evening, just hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.
The requirement would mark one of the strictest in the nation for young children and would fall in line with the city’s requirements for adults.
Since the end of August, eligible residents 12 and older in San Francisco have been required to show proof of full vaccination to enter some indoor places, such as bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms, large indoor events, and any business or event that serves food or drinks indoors.
“We definitely want to wait and make sure that children have an opportunity to get vaccinated, so (the requirement) will happen no sooner than about eight weeks after the vaccine is available to kids,” Dr. Philip said last week. “So there will be a limited time in which there will not be those requirements, (which is) our plan, but then at some point, 5-11 year olds will also have to show proof of vaccination to access some of those same settings (as adults).”
Currently 84% of San Francisco’s eligible 12 and older population is fully vaccinated, and the rate is even higher among 12-17 year olds — breaching 90%, according to the latest data.
Dr. Philip acknowledged that the highest percentage of cases have occurred among San Francisco adults throughout the pandemic and noted that cases among children occur at a much lower rate.
The requirement for children ages 5 to 11 to be vaccinated will not apply in schools just yet, as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October that students will only be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it receives full FDA approval. At this time, health officials estimate that kids in grades 7 to 12 could be required to be fully vaccinated by July 1 if full FDA approval is issued.
Some administrators at San Francisco Unified School District are encouraging parents to be ahead of the curve by getting students vaccinated before the state’s requirement kicks in.
“I encourage every parent and guardian to get their child vaccinated as soon as possible … When preventative measures are appropriately taken, schools are low-risk and safe environments for students to learn, play and thrive,” SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said in a statement Tuesday.
Under current SFUSD policy, students who are fully vaccinated are not required to be quarantined if they are in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.