CALIFORNIA, USA — Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a first-in-the-nation mandate requiring all eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend in-person classes at public or private schools in California.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella -- there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19.," Newsom said.
The requirement will be phased in beginning when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives full authorization for the vaccine's use on children aged 12 and over, meaning the policy likely won't take effect until next fall.
"That is what we are announcing here today. A statewide requirement for in-person instruction for all of our children to add to a well established list that currently includes 10 vaccinations... the vaccination for COVID-19," Newsom said. “Are there exemptions? Yes, well established exemptions for medical reasons, personal and or religious beliefs. Those are established in those guidelines as well,” Newsom added.
Newsom's press conference also highlighted how the state is working to protect students, faculty and staff who have returned to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year.
"I believe, we will be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement, but I do not believe -- that by any stretch of the imagination -- that we will be the last state. In fact, I expect other states to follow suit,” Newsom said.
Thanks to the state’s bold public health measures, California continues to maintain the lowest case rate in the entire country and is one of only two states to have advanced out of the CDC's 'high' COVID transmission category.
The vast majority of school districts have reported that over 95% of students have returned to in-person instruction this school year, as can be seen on the state’s Student Supports & In-Person Dashboard.
Chair Nathan Fletcher said Friday he supports the governors student vaccine mandate:
"Vaccines protect people from viruses and disease. Children are already required to receive vaccinations before beginning school and I agree the COVID-19 vaccine should be added to that list. I appreciate Governor Gavin Newsom’s bold action to require the COVID-19 vaccination for students next year," Fletcher said.
On Tuesday, the San Diego Unified Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward with plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all eligible students ages 16 and older and district employees. All those eligible will be required to have received their second vaccine shot by Dec. 20.
Friday, San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera told News 8 even though the state will be allowing religious and personal belief exemptions, San Diego Unified will not.
"What [Governor Newsom] is doing, he is allowing a baseline for all schools throughout the state, but districts can set a higher standard, and we will set that higher standard at San Diego Unified," said Barrera.
He added that the state legislature can take on this issue if necessary.
The Founder of the group, Let them Breathe, Sharon McKeeman released a statement related to their "Let The Choose" initiative and the governor's announcement:
While Let Them Choose disagrees with Governor Newsom’s stance, he did acknowledge the fact that new vaccines can only be mandated if personal belief exemptions are made available. This validates the legal concerns we have expressed against SDUSD’s statements that they will not allow for personal belief exemptions. Our legal team will be sending legal correspondence to the State, and we are planning our next steps in legal action. It is extremely unfortunate that we have to continue to take the State to court to protect our children. Students deserve COVID19 vaccine choice, and they have a protected right to an in-person education.
The Poway Unified School District released the following statement Friday in response to the governor's announcement:
"Our priority is to continue to keep our staff and students healthy and safe, and as such, we will continue to follow any CDPH guidelines and public health orders, as mandated by the State."
San Marcos Unified School District released the following statement Friday in response to the governor's announcement:
"Earlier this week, the San Marcos School District Board of Education reiterated they would not be opening a discussion about COVID-19 vaccine mandates for students, nor is it a part of any future plans. With the Governor's COVID-19 vaccine mandate announcement this morning, we plan to review the coming guidance regarding the new public health order. As with all of the COVID-19 health guidance we have received throughout the pandemic, we need time to assess and determine how to proceed with these coming requirements."
In order to further protect students and staff and continue supporting a safe return to in-person instruction for all students, Newsom directed the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to follow the procedures established by the Legislature to add the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance—such as measles, mumps, and rubella—pursuant to the Health and Safety Code. Newsom said the COVID-19 vaccine requirements will be phased-in by grade span to promote smoother implementation.
Newsom said the requirement will take effect at the start of the term following full approval of age groups within a grade span, to be defined as January 1 or July 1, whichever comes first and the requirement is expected to apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022. However, local health jurisdictions and local education agencies are encouraged to implement requirements ahead of a statewide requirement based on their local circumstances.
WATCH: Gov. Newsom announces first-in-the-nation COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all eligible CA students (Oct. 1, 2021)