SAN FRANCISCO — California will become the first U.S. state to require Covid-19 vaccinations for children to attend public and private schools in person in a mandate that could impact millions of students.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that the coronavirus shot will be added to 10 other immunizations already required for school kids, including those for measles and mumps.
Exemptions could be granted for medical reasons, religious or personal beliefs. However, the exemption rules are still being drafted and await public comment.
Any student who does not have an exemption would be required to study independently at home.
” We want to end the pandemic. After visiting seventh graders, Newsom stated that they are all exhausted by the pandemic.
“Vaccines are effective. Newsom stated that California is the leader in school closing prevention and has the lowest rates of cases. The mandate will be gradually implemented as the U.S. government gives final vaccine approval for all age groups. Children 12 and 15 cannot currently get the Pfizer vaccine without an emergency authorization from U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines for children 5 to 11 are still in the testing stage.
Under California’s mandate, students in seventh to 12th grades would have to be vaccinated by the semester following full U.S. approval of the shots for their age group, probably meaning by next July. For children in kindergarten to sixth grade, it will take longer.
The mandate will eventually affect more than 6.7million public and private school students from the nation’s largest state. California already requires schoolchildren to wear masks.
Until now, Newsom left the decision about student vaccine mandates to local schools districts. This led to many different orders. A mandate to vaccinate eligible students in Los Angeles will take effect in January.
Parents were quick to react, with some saying that they should be able to decide whether or not to vaccine their children.
” I’m furious. Jenny Monir, a Los Angeles mom of two said that Newsom’s mandate was more political than for public health. “We are just pawns .”
Janet Meadows’ children are in the first grade and preschool. She said that she would consider homeschooling her kids before giving them vaccines. The 41-year-old from Kern County said she’s worried about the health effects of the not-yet-approved shots for children.
” “I don’t believe we know enough about vaccines to make it safe for our children,” she stated. There are many unknowns. We don’t have to rush into it .”
Others applauded Newsom’s announcement.
” I’m happy to see that people are trying to control this health crisis,” Andrew Patterson, father to a San Francisco elementary school student. “And there are many other vaccine requirements. I don’t see why this one would be any different.”
California has one of the highest vaccine rates in the country — 84 percent of people 12 and older have gotten at least one shot, and 70 percent are fully vaccinated. Only 63.5 per cent of children aged 12 through 17 received a dose. The state also has a minority of people who are skeptical about the vaccine’s safety and those who have been assured of its safety.
Newsom was one of the most aggressive governors in enforcing coronavirus restrictions. He issued the first national stay-at-home order for children in March 2020 and it was quickly followed by 41 other States. Newsom also required that California’s 2.2 million state workers and health care workers get vaccinated in order to retain their jobs.
The governor felt empowered after defeating a recall attempt last month, which was motivated by anger at his handling of the pandemic. He claims he took his win in a landslide as endorsement of his vaccine policies.
Newsom doesn’t support all vaccine mandates. A federal judge recently imposed a requirement that prison guards be present. Newsom opposed it. Critics used this example to argue that Newsom is more driven by politics than science. They also pointed out that the labor union representing corrections officers had donated money to Newsom’s campaign to defeat the recall.
“California children made the error of not giving millions for his campaigns,” Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley tweeted Friday. Kiley was one of 46 candidates that ran to replace Governor Scott Walker in the recall election.
Newsom’s announcement comes as Covid-19 infections in most of California have dropped markedly. The state’s positivity rate was 2.8 percent for the week. There were 6 ,355, daily cases, roughly half the number at mid-August when the surge began. Hospitalizations have dropped 40%.
In Los Angeles County — the nation’s largest, with more than 10 million residents — just 1.7 percent of people tested for the virus have it, and daily infections are down by half in the last month, when most kids went back to school.
California’s largest teachers unions back the vaccination mandate, as does the California Association of School Boards.
Associated Press journalists Jocelyn Gecker and Haven Daley in San Francisco, Amy Taxin in Orange County and Terry Chea contributed.