SAN FRANCISCO – California is headed to implement the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for schoolchildren, a move announced Friday that could prompt other states to follow, as Governor Gavin Newsom called for the first statewide stay in the US. during the order. in the early days of the pandemic.
Newsom said the order won’t take effect for all children until the US government fully investigates vaccines for the two age groups — 12 to 15 and 5 to 11. That means kids in grades 7th to 12th will probably have until July. his shot. It will be even longer for children in kindergarten up to class VI as the government has not yet approved any COVID-19 vaccine for that age group.
California law requires all children enrolled in public and private schools to have 10 vaccinations, with the exception of medical reasons. For the coronavirus vaccine, California will provide exemptions for medical reasons as well as religious and personal beliefs. The rules for those exemptions will be written by the state after hearing the public’s comments. Any student without a waiver who refuses to receive the vaccine will be forced to pursue independent study at home.
The mandate will eventually affect more than 6.7 million public and private school students in the country’s most populous state. California already requires masks for schoolchildren.
“We have to do more,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference with seventh graders at a San Francisco middle school. “We want to end this pandemic. We are all tired of it.”
The federal government has fully approved coronavirus vaccines for anyone over the age of 16 and emergency authorization to vaccinate people 12 to 15. Full support for that age group is likely within a few months. Vaccines are currently in the testing phase for children ages 5 to 11.
California has one of the highest vaccine rates in the country – 84% of people age 12 and older have received at least one shot, and 70% are fully vaccinated. But the state has a vocal minority skeptical of both the vaccine and the government’s assurances of its safety. Last month, more than a thousand people gathered at the state capitol to protest the vaccine mandate.
“I think it’s the decision of the parents, you know. Period,” said Fabio Zamora, a father of eighth grade at Edna Brewer Middle School. “The government should not have mandates like this in any shape or form I don’t care. I am a veteran. I served this country and I fought for those rights.
A small number of school districts across the country have implemented their own vaccine mandates, including five in California. Among them are the two largest districts of the state – Los Angeles and San Diego.
Other states have opposed the imposition of pandemic rules in schools, including a new law in Kentucky that reversed a statewide mask mandate.
Newsom has been one of the most aggressive governors on coronavirus restrictions, issuing the country’s first statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020, which was soon followed by 41 other states. Most recently, Newsom required California’s nearly 2.2 million health care workers and most state workers to be vaccinated to keep their jobs.
The governor was boosted last month after easily defeating an angry recall effort over his handling of the pandemic. He says he interpreted his massive victory as an endorsement of his vaccine policies.
However, Newsom has not supported all vaccine mandates. He recently opposed the need for prison guards imposed by a federal judge. Critics used that example to say that Newsom is more motivated by politics than by science, noting that the labor union of corrections officers donated to its campaign to defeat the recall.
“The kids of California made the mistake of not giving millions to their campaigns,” Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kelly tweeted Friday. Kelly was among 46 candidates who ran to replace the governor during the recall election.
Newsom’s announcement comes as COVID-19 infections drop markedly across much of California. The statewide positivity rate for the past week stood at 2.8%, and the average number of daily cases stood at around 6,355, with the latest increase peaking in mid-August. There is a 40% drop in hospitalizations.
In Los Angeles County – the nation’s largest, with more than 10 million residents – only 1.7% of people tested for the virus have had, and daily infections have dropped by half in the past month, when most children are back to school. Had gone.
“These numbers are surprisingly low, as more than 3,000 schools are now open across the country,” County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. She noted that although there has been a slight increase in the number of outbreaks in schools in recent weeks, the total number is low and is largely related to youth sports.
Most of California’s largest teacher associations, like the California Association of School Boards, support the vaccination mandate.
“This is not a new idea. We need vaccines against many known fatal diseases before students can enroll in schools,” said Dr. Peter N. Breta, president of the California Medical Association. “The Newsom Administration is expanding existing public health protections to cover this new disease that has caused so much pain and suffering in our state, our country, and the entire world over the past 18 months.”
By now, Newsom had left the decision on student vaccine mandates to local school districts, receiving a variety of different orders. In Los Angeles, a vaccine mandate for eligible students is set to take effect in January.
Newsom’s plans do not override those plans. He said districts can “accelerate” the requirements, and he expects many will.
The vaccine mandate will also apply to teachers and staff at K-12 public and private schools. Newsom already required them to be either vaccinated or submitted for weekly testing, but once the mandate for students took effect, the testing option would no longer be available to teachers.
“We are never going to eradicate this virus, but the higher the immunity, the better,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Associated Press journalists Jocelyn Gecker and Terry Chee contributed.