Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for California students ages 12 or older and public school employees once fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Newsom said the vaccine will be added to the current list of 10 vaccinations required by the state for in-person instruction in public schools — making California the first state to do so.
“We’re all left wondering as we now move through the summer surge — not just here in California, but across this country — what lies in front of us in the winter, in the spring,” Newsom said at a press conference held in a classroom of San Francisco’s James Denman Middle School.
The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages 16 and older in December 2020 but has yet to approve the COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 12 and older.
If the FDA approves the vaccination for the 12-and-older age group by November, the mandate is anticipated to take full effect for the 2022-2023 school year on Jan. 1, 2022 and no later than July 1, 2022. It will also take medical, religious or personal exemptions into consideration.
The mandate comprises of two phases. The first involves vaccine requirements for grades 7-12 and all public school staff such as paraprofessionals and teachers. Meanwhile, the second phase will include vaccine requirements for grades K-6.
Newsom stressed the importance of taking a “scientific and data-driven approach” to the pandemic and that the motivation behind this mandate is to get California’s students back in the classroom.
“We know there isn’t a substitute for in-person instruction,” Newsom said.
Sen. Scott Weiner of District 11, which includes San Francisco, preceded the introduction of Newsom to the podium. Weiner relayed similar sentiments that parents might have around the vaccination of young children.
“It’s very exciting that we are looking at moving down to five years old in the near future and we need to make sure all of our kids are vaccinated,” Weiner said. “This is just a huge stressor for parents.”
Newsom said he hopes other states will follow with similar mandates to help end the pandemic. Newsom referred to California’s masking mandate and labeled California as “one of the nation’s leading vaccination efforts.”
Newsom reported that 84% of eligible Californians are partially vaccinated and the state has administered more than 50 million vaccine doses.
In San Luis Obispo County, 63.9% of residents over the age of 12 are vaccinated. This week, there have been 12 hospitalizations of COVID-19 in the 17-and-under age range.
Newsom ended his announcement by echoing the feelings of exhaustion by the public.
“We want to get this thing done, we want to end this pandemic,” Newsom said. “We are all exhausted by it.”