By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – California has weathered the Delta-variant surge probably better than anywhere else in the country, in part because of the much more rigorous standards in California. Governor Newsom, who faced recall and survived in part over his COVID policies, doubled down on that on Friday by announcing that California will be the first state in the nation to require all students to vaccinate for COVID.
After implementing first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination measures, California becomes the first state to announce plans to require student vaccinations—adding the COVID-19 vaccine to list of vaccinations required for school, such as the vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella—there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19. Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom,” said Governor Newsom.
He added, “Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
While the move is sure to draw criticism and pushback, Governor Newsom likely feels empowered by the results of the recent recall, which he survived overwhelmingly.
Moreover, the governor’s office noted on Friday, “Thanks to the state’s bold public health measures, California continues to maintain the lowest case rate in the entire country and is one of only two states to have advanced out of the CDC’s ‘high’ COVID transmission category.”
At the same time, “The vast majority of school districts have reported that over 95% of students have returned to in-person instruction this school year.”
Not only have the students returned to school, but “California is leading national trends in preventing school closures and keeping kids in classrooms, accounting for only 14 out of over 2,000 school closures nationwide, or roughly 0.7%—despite the fact that California educates an estimated 12% of the nation’s public school students.”
The governor’s office noted: “If California’s rates had aligned with national trends, the state would have seen upwards of 240 school closures.”
In order to further protect students and staff and continue supporting a safe return to in-person instruction for all students, the governor directed the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to follow the procedures established by the legislature to add the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance—such as measles, mumps, and rubella—pursuant to the Health and Safety Code. COVID-19 vaccine requirements will be phased in by grade span, which will also promote smoother implementation.
Upon full FDA approval of age groups within a grade span, “CDPH will consider the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians prior to implementing a requirement.”
For students in the grade range of 7 to 12, that will take place immediately.
“Students who are under the age of full approval, but within the grade span, will be required to be vaccinated once they reach the age of full approval (with a reasonable period of time to receive both doses),” the governor’s office said on Friday.
This requirement will take effect at the start of the term defined as either January 1 or July 1, whichever comes first.
However, they added that “local health jurisdictions and local education agencies are encouraged to implement requirements ahead of a statewide requirement based on their local circumstances.”