While most educational leaders in Los Angeles County appeared to welcome Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Friday, Oct. 1, giving a statewide mandate for K-12 students to get their COVID-19 shots, others expressed greater restraint. showed, saying only that they were still reviewing the information or would adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Under the mandate, K-12 students in public and private schools must get vaccinated against the coronavirus in the semester after the US Food and Drug Administration has given full approval for their age group. Newsom said he expects the mandate to take effect in January or, if FDA approval, comes later, next July.
The state mandate will allow exemptions based on medical, personal belief or religious reasons.
Debra Duardo, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said shortly after the governor’s announcement that she was grateful for the mandate, while acknowledging that “there is still work to do to build trust and confidence in vaccines among our school communities.” is” and that his office will set up a task force of local superintendents to help enforce the requirement.
Kelly Goenez, president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board, whose district recently became the first major K-12 system in the nation to require students to be vaccinated, said she hopes that as more government Agencies and businesses will issue their own mandates, this will boost confidence among the people. Public vaccines are safe.
“For those who are hesitant or who have questions about the vaccine, … Gonez said.
Newsom’s announcement comes at a time when local health officials are urging all eligible county residents to get their shots to prevent another surge of coronavirus cases as of last winter.
As of this week, 67% of all county residents aged 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 59% have been fully vaccinated, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health .
The department, in a statement, commended the latest state mandate as well as the efforts of local districts or other government agencies that have introduced or are considering vaccine validation requirements.
“Evidence shows that FDA-approved vaccines provide powerful protection against the virus and that increasing vaccination coverage is the most effective way to slow the spread and avoid a fatal surge,” the department said.
Vaccination rates for middle and high school students vary widely among local school districts.
A spokesperson for Long Beach Unified, which is the state’s fourth-largest district and the county’s second-largest, expressed support for the state’s mandate. About 67% of children aged 12-17 in Long Beach had already been vaccinated as of Thursday, according to city health data.
“At LBUSD, we have seen beneficial effects of vaccinating a higher percentage of our workforce, and we are beginning to see similar benefits among our population of post-secondary students, many of whom have also been vaccinated,” said a Long Beach Unified spokesperson. Chris Afticchio said in a statement.
Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District superintendent Alex Chernis said he expects the majority of parents in his district to support the state mandate, noting that more than 90% of the currently eligible students in the district have already Got your shots.
“Vaccine mandates are something that have been in place in schools for decades,” he wrote in an email. “If it were a measles or mumps mandate people wouldn’t blink an eye at it. I think it’s news today but will be pretty normal in a few years.
Chernis was referring to 10 other vaccines that students in California have already needed to attend in person at school for decades. These include vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chickenpox, and others.
Whittier Union High School District board member Russell Castaneda Caleros said he supports “bold measures” to protect the school community.
“When we look at what is happening in other states, with the increase in cases and hospitalizations, it is becoming really serious,” he said. “In California, because we are very proactive about mandating vaccines and masks… we are in a much better position than the rest of the country. We need to keep doing what we do.”
“This decision of the Governor gives a statewide direction. That’s what we need,” said Alhambra Unified superintendent Denis Jaramillo.
The district had previously offered several vaccination clinics in its high schools, but closed them when interest waned. Officials said that with Newsom’s announcement Friday, Alhambra Unified could consider rescheduling them, although no plans have been finalized.
While most district officials contacted for this story supported, or at least not staunchly opposed, the state’s student vaccine mandate, Friday’s news was not welcomed by all parents.
Statewide group Let Them Breathe, which is suing the state over its mask mandate for students, has launched a Let Them Choice initiative to advocate for choice when it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine.
Group founder Sharon McKeeman said in an email that even if there is full FDA approval, long-term studies about the vaccines will not yet be available.
“Families need to be able to make these individual medical decisions on their own, and there is no reason to mandate a vaccine for children who are at low risk of serious complications from the virus,” McKeeman said. “If the vaccine works, eligible people have the option of protecting themselves that way, and student vaccination status does not affect them.”
In Lancaster, Superintendent Michelle Bowers acknowledged in an email that parts of Antelope Valley have below-average vaccination rates, which “suggest that there is still work to be done to build trust and confidence in vaccines.”
According to a county department of public health department, 60% of residents 12 and older in Lancaster had received at least one vaccine dose by September 19, compared to 77% countywide.
“While there are much more questions than answers regarding mandates at this time, it is our desire to engage with our school community as much as possible to keep them informed and sensitive to their concerns as we consider next steps. ” Bowers said.
“At this time, we do not have plans to advance the vaccination mandate timeline for staff or students,” she said. “We will continue to practice our current safety protocols and plan to test employees weekly as needed starting October 4.
In addition to announcing a student vaccine mandate, Newsom said Friday that the state now wants all school workers to be vaccinated. The state currently requires school staff to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
But according to a spokesman for the governor’s office, once the student vaccine mandate goes into effect, school staff will also be expected to receive their shots, with medical or religious exemptions allowed.
“The state will issue an updated order specifying that all school staff will be required to vaccinate no later than when the requirement is in effect for students,” the spokesperson said.
Lisa Jacobs, Robert Morales, Brittany Murray, Pierce Singgih and Michael Sprague contributed reporting.