Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement of the mandate requiring eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend face-to-face classes in public and private schools, several parents have shown confusion about which students are eligible and when.
The mandate specifies that it will not take effect immediately but will be phased in in two phases in the school year after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full authorization for the use of the vaccine in children ages 12 to 15. years, which means the policy likely won’t go into effect until next fall or as early as January 2022, depending on approval.
Furthermore, the requirement for students in kindergarten through sixth grade will not go into effect until a vaccine receives approval for younger children. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is fully licensed for youth ages 16 and up. It is offered only under an emergency use authorization for teens ages 12-15.
Although an exact date is not known, Pfizer could request authorization of vaccines for children 5 to 11 years old under an emergency authorization for Thanksgiving, citing evidence from trials that the vaccines are safe and effective for children in that range.
Students who are not vaccinated can remain enrolled in independent studies, but cannot participate in in-person instruction.
Newsom also said that state-mandated religious and medical exemptions will be allowed. The requirement will also apply to all school personnel as soon as the schools become operational for students. However, teachers and campus staff in the state are already required to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID tests.
A recent Axios survey shows that parents are divided over the idea of vaccinating their children, with 44% of parents with children between the ages of 5 and 11 saying they are likely to vaccinate their children, compared to 42% saying they won’t.
Parents of 12-17 year olds are more inclined to support the idea of requiring vaccination, almost 60%.
According to a report published by the CDC, the most common pediatric adverse events reported after some children received the vaccine were dizziness, headache, and fainting.
So far, the vast majority of school districts have reported that more than 95% of students have returned to in-person instruction this school year, as can be seen from the Support Panel and with students attending class in the state.
California leads national trends in preventing school closings and keeping children in classrooms, accounting for just 14 of more than 2,000 campus closings nationwide, or about 0.7%, despite the fact that California educates about 12% of the nation’s public school students. If California’s rates had been in line with national trends, the state would have seen more than 240 school closings, according to the governor’s announcement.
In Los Angeles County, unvaccinated teens ages 12 to 17 are now the group with the highest rate of coronavirus cases in the past month.