Newsom Announces Vaccine Mandate for Schoolchildren in California, Effective January 2022

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that a vaccine mandate for schoolchildren will be in effect in California as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval for the vaccination of kids in the ages of 5 to 11 years old.

The state is the first in the U.S. to impose the requirement for both private and public school students. According to the Los Angeles Times, the vaccine mandate for schoolchildren could take effect as early as January 2022 and might be rolled out in two phases.

Newsom said that California needs to do more to "get to where we need to be" in containing the virus and achieving herd immunity. This means that unvaccinated students will not be allowed to join in-person classes, but they can attend online studies or be homeschooled.

The governor said California would adopt the same standards as the vaccine mandate for schoolchildren for measles, mumps, chickenpox, or polio. California has had at least ten established mandatory vaccinations for decades, and COVID-19 will be added.

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School Closures Due to Delta

California was also the first in the country to require vaccination for the teachers and staff in August. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci supports such mandates in the school community because the Delta variant spreads and impacts people faster.

Newsom's announcement comes as COVID-19 cases have forced some schools to close temporarily. According to Burbio, which tracks school activities during the pandemic, at least 2,200 in-person classes in 539 school districts have shut down since the resumption of classes this fall because of the infection.

More than 62 percent of parents said their children are at greater risk of virus transmission this year than last year because more schools are re-opening. Of these parents, 59 percent are supportive of the vaccine mandate for schoolchildren.

However, some parents are opposed to the requirement because they are not comfortable inoculating young children with a new vaccine. Before Newsom's announcement, a few schools in California had issued their independent mandates, but the school districts of Los Angeles and San Diego got a cease-and-desist letter from parents who wanted to challenge these rules in court.

Dr. Peter N. Bretan of the California Medical Association said that the vaccine mandate for schoolchildren is simply an extension of the public health protections enforced by the state for all deadly diseases. In a time when COVID-19 has brought "so much pain and suffering across our state," Bretan said that they support the governor's decision.

Where are the Vaccines?

Currently, everyone above 12 years old may be vaccinated in the U.S. Pfizer received full approval of its COVID-19 vaccines for those above 16 years old in August, while vaccination between 12 to 15 years old remains under emergency use authorization (EUA).

Pfizer is currently working on getting a full approval for the vaccines for 12 to 15 years old, and it has submitted its clinical trial data for the vaccines 5 to 11 years old with the FDA. Data for the trial for 2 to 5 years old will soon be out as well.

As of mid-September, 54 percent of kids between the ages of 12 to 15 have had one Pfizer dose. Of these numbers, fewer than 400 cases were linked to myocarditis. However, most vaccinated kids generally had mild reactions, and there have been no reported deaths.

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