Newsom mandates COVID vaccines for students to attend in-person instruction
Last updated 10/8/2021 at 6:05pm
City News Service
Special to Valley News
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a first-in-the-nation mandate Friday, Oct. 1, requiring eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend in-person classes at public and private schools.
The requirement, however, will not take effect right away. The mandate will be phased in beginning the school term after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives full authorization for the vaccine’s use on children aged 12 and over, meaning the policy likely won’t take effect until next year, potentially not until the fall, beginning with students in grades 7 and up.
The requirement for students in kindergarten through sixth grade will not take effect until a vaccine receives approval for younger children.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently fully authorized for people aged 16 and up. It is offered only under an emergency-use authorization for those aged 12-15.
Newsom’s move comes just days after San Diego Unified School District passed a mandate 0of its own requiring all students and staff to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes.
After hearing from medical professionals and the public, both pro and con, board members approved two recommendations Sept. 28. The first requires district employees, partners, contractors and other adults who work directly with students and district employees on district property to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20. The mandate would be a condition of employment and a requirement for contracted services. The second recommendation is a staggered approach to have all eligible students vaccinated against COVID-19, as a condition of attending in-person learning. The timeline for requiring the mandated vaccination will be aligned with full vaccine approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
“It could not be more clear that this is the right thing for us to do tonight,”board President Richard Barrera said.
Barrera said it was also very important for the district to ensure that students' parents and district employees are well-informed about the mandate and important deadlines.
“That level of communication will be absolutely critical as we move forward,” he said.
Newsom said religious and medical exemptions will be permitted under the state’s mandate.
The mandate will also apply to all school staff as soon as it kicks in for students. School teachers and staff in the state are already required to be either vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing. The new mandate will eliminate the testing option.
“While there continues to be encouraging signs and continuing to see progress with more and more people who maybe were on the fence, that are now getting the vaccine ... there’s still a struggle to get to where we need to go, and that means we need to do more and we need to do better,” Newsom said while making the announcement at a school in San Francisco.
During the San Diego Unified School District Board meeting, a large crowd opposed to any mandate rallied outside the district headquarters, located on Normal Street in the University Heights neighborhood.
Board members heard from 51 people, mainly parents of children attending San Diego Unified schools, who spoke for more than an hour during public comments, with many of them opposed to the proposed vaccine requirement.
San Diego resident Mari Magstadt, a mandate opponent, said the board was overstepping its authority.
“As a mother, this is where I draw the line,” she said, “We've actually all had COVID and we are fine.”
San Diego resident Steve Welty described himself as pro-vaccine, but anti-mandate and called on the board to produce more science and data to convince skeptical parents.
Welty said the best way to get people vaccinated is “not to force them. Keep it a choice. Many more will choose the shot.”
The previous week, a law firm representing Let Them Choose, a splinter group of Let Them Breathe, which opposes mask mandates, sent a letter to the school district asking it to not approve a vaccine mandate.
Sent by the Aannestad, Andelin & Corn firm, based in Cardiff-By-The-Sea, the letter stated that if the district approved a mandate, “Let Them Choose will consider all available options, including a lawsuit to seek an injunction against SDUSD, preventing it from implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and excluding students who choose to remain unvaccinated.”
As of press time, it remains unclear how Newsom’s vaccine mandate would be implemented for local students.
Kim Harris contributed to this story.