California to require all schoolchildren to get COVID shots
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Governor Gavin Newsome announced a vaccine mandate today for students and staff across all of the states school districts
Speaker 2: (00:07)
We recognize good enough, never is. And that's why we recognize our responsibility to do more. And that's 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 to add to that list. The vaccination for COVID-19
Speaker 1: (00:29)
The deadline to comply will coincide with the full FDA authorization and approval of the vaccine. The move comes after San Diego unified, the state's second largest school district moved to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all students and staff earlier this week. Joining us now to break down the announcement is KPBS education reporter in G Perez mg. Welcome back. Good
Speaker 3: (00:51)
To be here.
Speaker 1: (00:52)
So first off, can you break down this mandate for us? What is the deadline for compliance?
Speaker 3: (00:57)
Governor Newsome made it very clear that there were two target dates, January 1st, new year's day and July 1st. He also made it very clear that this would only take effect once a full FDA approval had been granted. So that's, uh, the target that we're looking for, the, these mandates to be put into, uh, into action.
Speaker 1: (01:18)
Well, does this plan leave it in the hands of individual school districts to go about implementing this policy
Speaker 3: (01:24)
In his press conference? Uh, Newsome said that this will set what he calls a baseline expectation. In other words, the very least that a school district might do. Here's what he had to say about what would happen next.
Speaker 2: (01:37)
That's what we're providing here is a baseline expectation, but with the flexibility for these districts to move, if they feel they need to move in a different timeline, we do allow them that flexibility to move more expeditions.
Speaker 1: (01:51)
And as we mentioned earlier, San Diego unified along with many other school districts across California already have a similar mandate policy. How does this statewide mandate compared to what we've seen put in place locally?
Speaker 3: (02:05)
Golly, uh, San Diego unified, uh, went by the same rule only for students who have been fully, uh, approved by the FDA to have the vaccine. So that would be 17 years and older. Um, so it actually will just compliment. And as the governor said, this is a baseline expectation. So districts could do more or they could do less depending on what the need is. Locally.
Speaker 1: (02:30)
Fornia has been a nationwide leader in many ways with regards to its COVID-19 response. Do we expect other states to follow suit with this announcement? The governor
Speaker 3: (02:40)
Certainly hopes, uh, that will happen. Uh, and yes, we have been a leader. In fact, one of the statistics he mentioned in the press conference was that 50 million doses have been administered here in the state of California. And that total is about 84% of all eligible Californians who have been vaccinated. So that's encouraging, uh, news. It is also an act of leadership that he hopes other states will follow. Um, after today's announcement,
Speaker 1: (03:07)
Does he face any challenges implementing this policy?
Speaker 3: (03:10)
There are always challenges. Uh, I was watching the press conference on his YouTube channel and I had to turn the chat box off because there were so many negative comments being made and people threatening, uh, legal action and this and that. So yes, there will be a challenge. Uh, there already has been with masks and with the, uh, pending, uh, vaccine mandates and, uh, the, the state will just have to deal with that when the time comes.
Speaker 1: (03:36)
So no doubt, there's a lot of pushback to this requirement. Uh, what did the governor say with regards to the need for this mandate? Well,
Speaker 3: (03:43)
He said we're tired. Uh, he said he was tired of COVID and I know that, you know, thousands of people are tired of it. And his belief is that by mandating vaccines, the science proves that vaccines work and keep people healthy. So with this mandate, he thinks, uh, there is a very good chance of finally getting a handle on the COVID pandemic.
Speaker 1: (04:07)
And it might be too early to say, but any sense of the reaction from parents, students, and staff to this news?
Speaker 3: (04:14)
Well, I, I was at the, uh, school board meeting, uh, that wasn't outside the administration building on Tuesday, and there were plenty hundreds of parents who are against any kind of mandate, uh, for vaccinations. So there is that, uh, but there are also on the other side of it, parents who have been waiting for this moment, uh, so that they can feel safe sending their children to school. And ultimately that's what everybody wants. That is in-person, uh, instruction, in-person social connection, uh, for the best of all our, for the best for our children. Right.
Speaker 1: (04:50)
And does Newsome expect that this will quickly increase a statewide vaccination numbers or, or, or is he expecting more of a slow trickle with that?
Speaker 3: (04:57)
It's hard to say because, uh, it won't happen before January 1st. So let's be clear on that. This is not something that will be a mandated right away, and once it is mandated, then it will be a process to allow time for parents to have their children vaccinated. So for the moment he looks at it as a positive step in the right direction. When did he have
Speaker 1: (05:19)
To say about exemptions for this mandate?
Speaker 3: (05:22)
There will be exemptions, personal exemptions, which include religious and medical. Uh, so having said that, um, there will be people who will try to be exempt from the mandate, but to be clear, um, the state is very serious about making sure those exemptions are legitimate. So just because someone says, I have a religious belief against this, uh, there will have to be some backup for that in order to be released from having to, um, go abide by the mandate.
Speaker 1: (05:53)
We're seeing a lot about employers, potentially letting go of workers who don't comply with this mandate. Did Newsome comment at all on fears of being fired for non-compliance.
Speaker 3: (06:03)
I don't know about fears, but he made it very clear that this, uh, is a vaccination that is added to a list of many others that are required. And it is within the right of an employer, uh, to provide a safe work environment. And there are consequences to that. So, uh, people who are making the choice not to be vaccinated will have to face those consequences.
Speaker 1: (06:25)
I've been speaking with KPBS education, reporter mg Perez mg. Thanks so
Speaker 3: (06:30)
Much. Thank you.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the nation's first coronavirus vaccination mandate for schoolchildren, a plan that will have all elementary through high school students get the shots once the vaccine gains final approval from the U.S. government for different age groups.
The government has fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and over but only granted an emergency authorization for anyone 12 to 15. Once federal regulators fully approve the vaccine for that group, the state will require students in seventh through 12th grades to get vaccinated in both public and private schools, Newsom’s office said.
The state will require the COVID-19 vaccine for students in kindergarten through sixth grade only after the federal government has given final approval for anyone 5 to 11.
The announcement comes as infections in most of California have dropped markedly in the last month. But Newsom has been emboldened after easily defeating a recall effort last month following a campaign where he emphasized his commitment to vaccine mandates to end the pandemic.
In Los Angeles County — the nation’s largest, with more than 10 million residents — just 1.7% of people tested for the virus have it and daily infections are down by half in the last month, when most kids went back to school.
“These numbers are amazingly low given that 3,000-plus schools are now open countywide,” county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.
She noted that though the number of outbreaks in schools has increased slightly in recent weeks, the overall number is small and largely related to youth sports.
The state's vaccine mandate would take effect the semester after the federal government grants final approval. If it comes in January, then the mandate would take effect in July.
Students would be granted religious and medical exemptions, but the rules for how the state would apply those exemptions have not been written yet. Any student who refuses to take the vaccine would be forced to complete an independent study course at home.
Until now, Newsom had left the decision on student vaccine mandates to local school districts, leading to a variety of different orders across some of the state’s largest districts.
Los Angeles and Oakland Unified have mandated all students over 12 to be vaccinated, but Oakland’s order has not set a deadline for when students must comply. LA set a deadline of Jan. 20.
Earlier this week, the San Diego Unified school board approved a mandate that staff and students age 16 and older be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20.
Newsom has made it a point of pride to be the first in the nation to issue a variety of pandemic-related school mandates.
In August, California became the first state in the U.S. to require all teachers and staff in K-12 public and private schools to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Newsom also issued a school mask mandate earlier in the summer for indoor classes that applies to all teachers and students.