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Newsom Mandates COVID-19 Vaccine for California Schoolchildren

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students across public and private schools on Oct. 1. The mandate makes California the first state to require all students to be vaccinated by the start of the next academic year.

Newsom announced the mandate from a school in San Francisco. He stated that the COVID-19 vaccine will be added to the list of required vaccines, which include vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella. The vaccine will be required for students to attend in-person classes. 

“Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Newsom said

The state will grant exceptions for select cases, including limited religious and medical reasons. Students who remain unvaccinated for the upcoming school year will complete independent study courses at home. 

California has one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the country, which many attribute to Newsom’s strict COVID-19 protocol, state-wide shutdowns and early support of vaccine administration. Initially, he left the decision to mandate vaccines up to individual school districts. Several school districts in the state have vaccine mandates in place; this includes the Los Angeles and San Diego Unified School Districts, which are the largest in the state. 

The start date for the mandate will be determined once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives the vaccine full approval for children aged 12 to 15. As of now, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has full approval for the age group of 16 and up, with emergency authorization for children aged 12 to 15. Newsom anticipates that the vaccine will have full approval for ages 12 to 15 by January of next year, which would enable him to require it for students in grade levels that are not yet covered as soon as July 2022. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 12 get the vaccine in order to curb the spread of the virus and end the pandemic.

Many prominent figures in the medical field are in strong support of the vaccine mandate. 

“I agree with what Gov. Newsom did in California. People need to realize that having a vaccine requirement for schools is not a new, novel thing that is very peculiar or specific to COVID-19. We’ve been doing this for decades,” Chief Medical Advisor to the President and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

“This is not a new idea …The Newsom Administration is simply extending existing public health protections to cover this new disease,” California Medical Association President Dr. Peter N. Bretan, Jr. said

Elaina Martin is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at elainarm@uci.edu