California to become first state to require COVID-19 vaccination for students

Gov. Seal

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter

On Friday, Oct. 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all schoolchildren throughout the state of California must be vaccinated against COVID-19, pending federal approval.

Just as California was the first state to implement school masking and staff vaccination measures, it will also be the first state to require student vaccinations.

The vaccine is currently approved for those ages 16 and older.

Children within the 12-15 age group have only received emergency use authorization for the vaccine. But once the age group receives full federal approval, the state will require students in seventh through 12th grades to get vaccinated.

This will apply to both public and private schools.

For students within the kindergarten through sixth grade, the mandate will commence after the federal government has given final approval for anyone ages 5 to 11.

The state’s vaccine mandate would go into effect the semester following the federal government’s approval.

For example, if the FDA approval for the vaccine occurs in January, then the mandate would take effect beginning in July.

“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19,” said Gov. Newsom.

Currently, California students are required to have 16 vaccinations from transitional kindergarten and kindergarten through 12th grade including for Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella.

“School vaccine requirements have been with us for generations and have been instrumental in protecting all of us from once-common diseases,” said Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Dr. César Morales. “By requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 once the vaccine is fully approved for their age group, we will have an additional measure to enhance safety in our schools and our communities.”

California’s public health measures have contributed to California’s lowest-in-the-country state case rate as well as being one of just two states to advance out of the Center for Disease Control's "high" COVID transmission category.

“A recent study shows that children are infected with the COVID virus more often than adults,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin. “Children are more likely to have no symptoms but they can become ill, can become seriously ill and even die. With billions of COVID vaccinations given across the globe, the safety of the COVID vaccines is established. Many other vaccines are required for school attendance. This is now one more. It will protect our children, it will protect those they come in contact with, it will keep our schools open and it will hasten the time when life as we knew it before will return.”

The news of the mandate came along with the news of additional federal funding.

Newsom announced a historic $123.9 billion Pre-K and K-12 educational package, which will provide funding for the state’s public schools. Funding will go toward achieving universal transitional kindergarten for 4-year-olds by 2025, expanding after-school and summer programs, providing universal free school nutrition, increasing the number of staff per pupil, and creating full-service community schools to support the mental and social-emotional well-being of students.

Upon full Food and Drug Administration approval of the age groups within a grade span, the California Department of Public Health will consider the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians prior to implementing the requirement. 


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