Gov. Newsom announces statewide school vaccine mandate for in-person learning

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Oct.1 that students ages 16–18 learning in person are now required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Governor, utilizing the emergency regulation process provided the administration in the 2015 school vaccination bill, Senate Bill 277 (Pan, D-Sacramento), noted that as vaccines receive full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for youth in other age groups, those students will be required to be vaccinated as well.

Administration officials expect the COVID vaccine will receive full approval for youth ages 12–15 by January. Once that occurs, that vaccination will be added to the school vaccine requirement list effective July 1, 2022, to affect the 2022–23 school year. Should the vaccine be approved for prior to January, students will be required to get the vaccine sooner, Newsom said. No state requirement will be made for 5–11 year olds until that age group receives full FDA approval.

Medical, religious and personal belief exemptions will be available. Though the personal belief exemption was removed with the passage of SB 277, there was a caveat that when a new vaccine was added to the list of those required, there may be an exemption for personal beliefs.

The Governor said this office is supportive of those local educational agencies and public health departments that opt to go further than the statewide mandate, such as in Los Angeles Unified School District, where students ages 12–15 are required to be vaccinated even though it has only been approved for emergency use.

“The California Schools Boards Association welcomes the state’s decision to use its longstanding legal authority to add COVID-19 inoculations to the vaccine requirements. CSBA endorses approaches to COVID-19 mitigation that are supported by data and science and that maximize the safety of students and staff — principles that are reflected in the new mandate,” said CSBA President Dr. Susan Heredia. “The patchwork of different methods for COVID-19 mitigation at the local level was not the most effective approach for this particular crisis. California requires a more comprehensive strategy that frees local school boards from the need to act as de facto public health officials. Those decisions are better left to people at the state level who are designated to perform public health functions. In addition, a statewide standard for student vaccinations may help defuse some of the unlawful behavior directed at school board trustees by those who oppose local mandates.”

Newsom noted his office has “no trepidation, no hesitancy in encouraging local districts to move forward more expeditiously,” as Los Angeles USD, San Diego USD, Oakland USD, Culver City USD and more have already done.