SAN FRANCISCO (CBS13/AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the nation's first coronavirus vaccination mandate for schoolchildren, a plan that will have all elementary through high school students get the shots once the vaccine gains final approval from the U.S. government for different age groups.
The government has fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and over but only granted an emergency authorization for anyone 12 to 15. Once federal regulators fully approve the vaccine for that group, the state will require students in seventh through 12th grades to get vaccinated in both public and private schools, Newsom's office said.
After full FDA approval, this is the plan, Newsom says:
- Phase 1: Grades 7-12 (Jan. 1 or July 1, 2022 start)
- Phase 2: K-6 (dates TBD) Concurrent with phases, employees will also get vaccinated, pending the Biden administration's plan to require employee vaccinations.
The state will require the COVID-19 vaccine for students in kindergarten through sixth grade only after the federal government has given final approval for anyone age 5 to 11.
Additionally, Newsom says that there will be exemptions for certain medical conditions and some personal and religious beliefs.
The announcement comes as infections in most of California have dropped markedly in the last month. But Newsom has been emboldened after easily defeating a recall effort last month following a campaign where he emphasized his commitment to vaccine mandates to end the pandemic.
Meanwhile, today is the deadline for students and staff at Los Rios Community college district to get vaccinated.
"My mind has not changed since the day that the resolution was passed, I believe that individuals should have the freedom to choose their health decisions," said an employee.
California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd issued the following statement in support of Gov. Gavin Newsom's statewide school vaccine mandate:
"Teaching and learning are most effective in person, and the COVID-19 vaccine is a proven measure to prevent life-threatening illness, keeping schools safe and open for in-person instruction, and will get us closer to being able to put this devastating pandemic behind us. Since the beginning, CTA has called for access to vaccines, testing, and multi-layered safety measures in order to be reunited with our students in our classrooms. As the science advances and COVID vaccines are approved for younger students, this is the next step toward ensuring the health and safety of our schools and communities consistent with other vaccine requirements in schools. While recognizing the need for medical and religious exemptions, we believe vaccinations are key for both student and educator safety, keeping our schools open for in-person instruction and for combating this pandemic. Ninety percent of CTA members are vaccinated, and an overwhelming majority supports a vaccine mandate for students and staff. Several California school districts have already worked with educators and families in announcing vaccine mandates and will not be impacted by this new order. Phasing in the implementation timeline will allow local districts to prepare with families and educators and offer schools a vaccination site. Working together we can and will beat the deadly coronavirus that has claimed nearly 70,000 Californians and 700,000 lives in the U.S."
Additionally, Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley spoke out against Newsom, demanding accountability for Newsom's "corrupt" and "hypocritical" vaccine mandates.
Kiley says, "There is no reason the Governor's policy of 'education' and 'access' cannot guide vaccination policy in schools." At every turn, this Governor has let his top Special Interest donors dictate pandemic policy. It is an abuse of the public trust without precedent in our state's history."
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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