California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced all eligible schoolchildren in the state must be vaccinated by 2022, becoming the first state to issue a vaccine mandate.
The state will require millions of students from grades 7 through 12 to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19, and plans to phase in requirements for younger children once vaccines are approved for those age groups.
BREAKING: CA will require our kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine to come to school.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) October 1, 2021
This will go into effect following full FDA approval.
Our schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps and more. Why? Because vaccines work.
This is about keeping our kids safe & healthy.
Announcing the move on Friday, Mr Newsom said the move would go into effect following full approval by the Food and Drug Administration for children between the ages of 12 and 15 to receive the vaccine.
“Our schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps and more. Why? Because vaccines work,” Mr Newsom said.
“This is about keeping our kids safe and healthy.”
The FDA granted emergency approval for 12 to 15 year olds to get the Pfizer vaccine in May, and fully approved vaccines for everyone over 16 in August.
The state’s vaccine mandate would take effect the semester after the federal government grants final approval. If it comes in January, then the mandate would take effect in July.
Students would be granted religious and medical exemptions, but the rules for how the state would apply those exemptions have not been written yet.
Any student who refuses to take the vaccine would be forced to complete an independent study course at home.
California was the first state to institute a strict lockdown in March 2020, as Covid-19 swept through the state.
California was also the first state to require healthcare workers to get vaccinated, and the second after Hawaii to issue a vaccine mandate for school staff.
The announcement comes as infections in most of California have dropped markedly in the last month.
Mr Newsom has been emboldened after easily defeating a recall effort last month following a campaign where he emphasised his commitment to vaccine mandates to end the pandemic.
In Los Angeles County — the nation’s largest, with more than 10 million residents — just 1.7 per cent of people tested for the virus have it and daily infections are down by half in the last month, when most kids went back to school.
Agencies contributed to this report
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