SAN FRANCISCO – California will implement the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for school children, Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday, aiming to vaccinate all students in seventh to 12th grades by next fall, when shots are available for 12 and older. receive final federal approval.
The Democratic governor said he expects the US government to final sign sometime next year, which is now clashing with the emergency authorization granted to those 12 to 15.
He said the state would require students from kindergarten to sixth grade after getting final federal approval for children ages 5 to 11.
“We have to do more,” Newsom said during a news conference after moving in with some seventh graders at a San Francisco middle school. “We want to end this pandemic. We are all tired of it.”
A handful of school districts have implemented their own vaccine mandates, including five in California. But other states have resisted imposing pandemic rules on 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 nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020 and most recently requiring California’s nearly 2.2 million health care workers to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. Was.
The governor appears to have been emboldened after easily defeating an angry recall effort last month over his handling of the pandemic. He says he interpreted his massive victory as an endorsement of his vaccine policies.
Newsom does not support all vaccine mandates, however, having recently opposed a similar requirement for prison guards that a federal judge imposed. 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.
“California kids made the mistake of not giving their campaigns millions,” Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kelly, who ran to replace Newsom during the recall election, tweeted Friday.
About 84% of all people 12 and older in California have received at least one dose of the vaccine, one of the highest rates in the country. But Newsom said on Friday that just 63.5% of people between 12 and 17 have received at least one dose.
His announcement comes as COVID-19 infections in most of California have dropped markedly over the past month.
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 on Thursday. for youth sports.
The largest teacher associations in California supported the instruction, as did the California Association of School Boards. California Medical Association President Dr. Peter N. Brettah said the group “strongly supports” the vaccine mandate for students.
“This is not a new idea. We need vaccines against many known deadly diseases before students can enroll in schools,” Bretton said. “The Newsom administration is using existing public health protections to cover this new disease. Which has caused so much pain and suffering in our state, our country and the entire world in the last 18 months.”
Yet this requirement is sure to anger some parents who are skeptical about vaccines. Last month, more than a thousand people gathered at the California Capitol to protest the vaccine mandate.
Students will be given religious and medical exemptions, but the rules for how the state will implement them are yet to be written. Any student who refuses to take the vaccine will be forced to complete an independent study course at home.
Until now, Newsom had left decisions on student vaccine mandates to local school districts, receiving a variety of different orders in some of the state’s largest districts. In Los Angeles, a vaccine mandate for eligible students is set to go into effect in January for the nation’s second-largest school district.
Newsom’s plan does not override those districts’ plans, adding that school districts can “accelerate” the requirements.
Newsom has made it a matter of pride to be the first in the country to issue school mandates related to a variety of pandemics.
In August, California became the first state to have all teachers and staff in K-12 public and private schools vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Newsom also issued a school mask mandate for indoor classes that applied to all teachers and students earlier in the summer.