Newsom mandates vaccines for school-aged children when it becomes FDA approved.

This past Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom made California the first state to order a vaccine mandate for children ages 12 and up after the vaccine has been completely approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that age range. According to the L.A. Times, this mandate would apply to public and private schoolchildren and could come into effect as soon as January 2022. 

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine has been fully approved for those 16 years of age or older and there is an emergency order allowing those ages 12 to 15 to receive the vaccine. Some school districts in the state have already set up their own vaccine mandates, says the Associated Press. Included in those are Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest districts. 

Before this new mandate, Newsom had let the decision to put in vaccine mandates be determined by each local school-district. This mandate does not override those previous ones already in place, however, the districts are encouraged to accelerate their own mandates along with the state-wide one. 

This mandate will also apply to teachers and staff in K-12 private and public schools, according to the Associated Press. Currently, they are required to either be vaccinated or be tested weekly; however, once the mandate is put into effect, the testing option will no longer be available.

This vaccine mandate is different from other vaccine requirements by schools for children to attend because there will be the option to apply for exemption due to religious or personal beliefs, according to the Associated Press. For other vaccines required by schools, there is no longer this option, the only exemptions that can be applied for are medical ones. This ability was removed by the state government in 2015 but will be an option for the COVID-19 vaccine because it is a regulatory process right now, not legislature. 

If parents who choose not to vaccinate their children do not apply for an exemption, they can not enroll their children for in-person instruction at school. These students will have other options such as joining a fully online school, home-schooling or enrolling in any independent study programs the school may have. 

The news of this mandate was received positively by many people but there was also some push back by others who are against forcing parents to vaccinate their children. In a quote given to the L.A. Times, one parent said that families should have the ability to make their own decisions and that it’s an unnecessary mandate since schoolchildren are a low risk group. 

Other parents, however, are relieved with the future mandate and see it as another needed safe-guard for their children. Tanya Schwarz, who has a 7-year-old at Cubberley Elementary in Long Beach told the L.A. Times that he had been very nervous to send his daughter back to school this fall because of other parents not wanting to force their kids to wear a mask along with the new Delta variant of the virus. He said that he was serious about the virus and thought that school safety needed to be a top priority, something that this new mandate reflects.

Many of the state’s largest teachers unions approve of this mandate along with the California Association of School Boards

Newson’s mandate comes at a time when the rates of COVID-19 cases in California have been dropping. Those testing positive state-wide was 2.8% last week, the number of daily cases averages around 6,355 and hospitalizations have decreased by 40%.

However, the Governor is pushing for better numbers with this mandate. Talking to the L.A. Times, he said, “There’s still a struggle to get to where we need to be. And that means we need to do more, and we need to do better.”