Requirement will go into effect upon FDA approval
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a vaccine mandate for schoolchildren on Friday that will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 once the shots are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The order will add the COVID-19 vaccine to a list of 10 required vaccines that students must receive to attend in-person learning, which includes vaccines like measles, mumps and rubella.
The requirement will go into effect in the semester following full Food and Drug Administration approval for vaccine use among kids ages 12 and older. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is under an Emergency Use Authorization for children ages 12 to 15 and has received full FDA approval for people ages 16 and older.
Gov. Newsom said he sees the rollout occurring in two parts — first for children in grades 7 through 12, and second for students in kindergarten through 6th grade upon FDA approval. The state will require students in kindergarten through 6th grade to be vaccinated when the FDA approves the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.
Once the order goes into effect, students will not be allowed to attend in-person classes without being vaccinated. Traditional medical and religious exemptions will be available for students.
The order made California the first state to mandate such a requirement for students and marks the governor’s latest effort to stamp out COVID-19 in schools.
“We are mindful that we still have work to do,” Gov. Newsom said during a press conference Friday. “We want to end this pandemic, we are all exhausted by it, and the purpose of this (requirement) is to continue to lead in that space.”
The vaccine mandate will also apply to teachers and school staff when it is issued for 7th through 12th graders, Gov. Newsom said Friday. Currently, the state requires that teachers and staff be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, but this new mandate would take away the option for testing.
The governor added on Friday that he has “no hesitancy” in encouraging school districts to move forward with a vaccine requirement for teachers and staff “more expeditiously” if they choose.
According to FDA approval timelines, the governor estimated Friday that students in grades 7 through 12 could be required to be fully vaccinated by July 1, 2022.
Students who are not fully vaccinated will be required to enroll in independent study, which is the only alternative to in-person instruction that will be offered.