Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that the state will require COVID-19 vaccines for all school children ages 12-17 once the FDA grants full approval, becoming the first state in the country to move forward on mandating vaccines for school children. The requirement is going to be another immunization along with 10 other vaccines that are already required to attend school.
"I believe we will be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement but I do not believe, by any stretch of the imagination, we will be the last state," Newsom said during a press conference on Friday. “For 12 to 17, we're not where we need to be. And so, we hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated.”
The mandate will not be implemented until January at the earliest, when the next school semester starts, and could come as late as July 2022, depending on when the FDA gives the go ahead for vaccines for kids under 16 years old. But Newsom, a Democrat, encouraged local districts to be proactive and move at their own pace.
Turlock Unified School District is aware of the mandate and said they are reviewing what are the best steps to take moving forward.
“We are aware that several school districts have recently mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible students/staff and that there was a possibility of a statewide mandate. We are reviewing the new mandate shared at the Governor’s press conference and will share information with our TUSD community as it becomes available,” said Chief Communication Coordinator Marie Russell.
Students 12 years old and up are already eligible for the Pfizer vaccine under an emergency use authorization, but it isn’t fully approved, and the FDA process takes longer for those under 16.
"Once the FDA approves the vaccination, in different cohorts starting with 12 and above, grade 7 to 12, we will begin to apply that requirement in the next term, either Jan. 1 or July 1, whichever comes sooner," said Newsom.
Students aren’t the only ones mandated to get vaccinated. The vaccine will also be required for all California school staff, including teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers and custodians.
Newsom said there will exemptions for medical conditions and religious beliefs.
"We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it. And the purpose of this is to continue to lead in that space," he said.