Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday that students will soon need a coronavirus vaccination to attend school in person in California. Here’s what you need to know about the new vaccine mandate.
Q: What is the new requirement?
A: Children must be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend school in person, starting in the classroom after receiving full FDA approval for two different groups. The requirements will be implemented in phases by grade period, first grades 7 to 12 and then kindergarten through sixth grade. School staff will also need to be vaccinated by the time the requirement applies to the first group.
Q: Does this also apply to private schools?
A: Yes. All public and private K-12 schools in California will be covered under the mandate.
Q: What is the deadline for my student to be vaccinated?
A. The exact date is not yet clear. But children 12 years of age and older (grades 7-12) may be required to be vaccinated as early as January 1, 2022. The Pfizer vaccine has already received full FDA approval for ages 16 and older, The company is seeking the same authorization for children under the age of 12. School staff – not only teachers, but bus drivers, guardians, etc. – will also need to be vaccinated at that time. Vaccine requirements for younger children in kindergarten through sixth grade are likely months away.
Q: Aren’t teachers and administrators already required to vaccinate?
Kind of. For now, they have the option of getting tested for the virus regularly if they haven’t been vaccinated, but that option will disappear once the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to the first group of students.
Q: What if my pupil is not old enough to be vaccinated?
A: This requirement only applies to children who are eligible for vaccination. Vaccines have not been approved for children younger than 12, but that could happen later this year or early next year.
Q: What other vaccinations are required for California schoolchildren?
A: Vaccine requirements for school admission are not unusual. California already requires that children get vaccinations against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (DTaP), measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and varicella (chickenpox).
Q: Will my child be prevented from going to school if she is not shot?
A: Students who have not been vaccinated will be allowed to enroll in an independent study, but will not be allowed to attend class in person.
Q: Are there exceptions?
A: Yes, there will be exceptions due to medical reasons and personal and religious beliefs. A few years ago, the state passed a law that said parents could no longer cite their personal or religious beliefs as a reason not to vaccinate their children against a range of diseases. Since the new COVID-19 mandate is a new regulation — not the result of legislation in Sacramento — the state should allow such exemptions. But if state lawmakers in the future decide to create a law adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations, those exemptions could expire.
Q: Will my child still be required to wear a mask at school?
A: Yes now. Friday’s announcement did not come with any changes to the requirement for students to wear masks indoors.
Q: Does the authorization also apply to pre-school and higher education?
A: No, the authorization is limited to primary and secondary students. Many universities — including the UC and CSU systems — already, with limited exceptions, require students and staff to be vaccinated.