California will require Covid-19 vaccinations for students in both public and private schools once the Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccine for school-aged children, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday. California is the first state in the nation whose officials have announced such a mandate.
Newsom, a Democrat who implemented a statewide masking mandate for this school year, said that requiring vaccinations will help keep students safe and in the classroom.
“If that’s the intention, to keep us healthy and safe and get our economy moving and get our kids back with all the benefits of being in-person for instruction, then all I say is, ‘Let’s get this done and let’s get others to follow suit,'” Newsom said at an event held at a San Francisco school on Friday, Politico reported.
Currently, the FDA has fully approved one vaccine, Pfizer’s, for people 16-years-old and up, but for those ages 12 to 15, the Pfizer vaccine is still under emergency use authorization. The mandates would come via a phased rollout, starting with 7th-12th grade students. Depending on how quickly the FDA moves, older children could have a vaccine requirement either this coming January 1st or July 1st next summer.
Younger children, however, will have to wait longer, as no Covid-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA, even for emergency use, in that population. As with other state-mandated immunizations in California, students can request exemptions for religious, medical, and personal reasons, but the state legislature next year could pass a bill that would further limit the types of exemptions available. According to Politico, Newsom said that “one can anticipate” the legislature getting involved and that he plans to “work with them to strengthen” his plan.
“We have to do more,” Newsom said. “We hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated.”
At least one California county is a step ahead of Newsom. All children ages 12 and older in Los Angeles public schools must be vaccinated by January 2022, the Board of Education voted in September.