California will not require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least another school year, health officials announced Thursday. The earliest time a requirement would go into effect is now July 1, 2023, dependent on the full approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 16 years old.
State officials had initially said the mandate could be implemented as early as July 2022, depending on FDA full approval.
The state is delaying implementation of the mandate for the 2022-2023 school year "to ensure sufficient time for successful implementation of new vaccine requirements," the state health department said.
"The California Department of Public Health strongly encourages all eligible Californians, including children, to be vaccinated against COVID-19," said State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón in a statement. "We continue to ensure that our response to the COVID-19 pandemic is driven by the best science and data available."
Turlock Unified School District hopes the additional time will help parents and students address any questions that they still have about the vaccine.
“We hope that the State’s decision brings relief to those in our TUSD community who had concerns about a vaccine mandate and we look forward to focusing our attention and energy on supporting student learning,” said TUSD communications coordinator Marie Russell.
California became the first state in the country to move forward on mandating COVID-19 vaccines for school children in October, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will require the vaccine for all school children ages 12-17 once the FDA grants full approval. The mandate allows exemptions for medical reasons, personal beliefs and religious beliefs.
The FDA has granted full approval for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 16 and up, and for Moderna's vaccine for those ages 18 and up. Pfizer has requested to expand its approval to include those ages 12 to 15.
As of Thursday, 59.6% of Stanislaus County residents have been vaccinated. Statewide, 74.2 percent of residents aged 12-17 have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.