Governor Gavin Newsom issued a mandate Friday that makes California the first state in the U.S. to require all eligible public and private school students to be vaccinated against COVID, starting in kindergarten.
The mandate will take effect for students for grades 7 through 12 the semester after the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval for kids 12 and older to be vaccinated, which could come as soon as January. Currently, only people 16 and older are formally eligible for vaccination, while children as young as 12 can get their shots only through an emergency authorization.
For students in kindergarten through sixth grade, the mandate will be introduced when a vaccine is authorized for children 12 and younger.
Once the mandate goes into effect, unvaccinated student will not be allowed to attend classes in person unless they secure a religious or medical exemption. Others will have the option of homeschooling, enrolling online, or in independent study programs offered by their school districts—a situation that already poses a potential problem for Los Angeles public schools.
“There’s still a struggle to get to where we need to be,” Newsom said Friday. “And that means we need to do more, and we need to do better.”
The schools and districts will be responsible for enforcing the mandate, which, as Newsom pointed out, is already the case for a host of childhood vaccinations.
“This is just another vaccine,” he said, explaining that the COVID-19 vaccination is just one more in “a well-established list that currently includes ten vaccines and well-established rules and regulations that have been advanced by the Legislature for decades.”
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