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San Diego Unified will enforce COVID vaccination mandate for students 16 and up starting with summer session

The San Diego Unified School Board will enforce the district's COVID vaccination mandate for students 16 and up

The San Diego Unified Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to enforce its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all eligible students 16 and up.

The requirement goes into effect with the upcoming summer session that starts June 21. It will continue for the fall semester. Those eligible students who play sports or do other extra-curricular activities in the fall will need to provide proof of their first vaccination within a week of practices beginning July 30.

"We’ve already implemented a mandate for our staff," said San Diego Unified Trustee Richard Barrera. "So in order to work for our district, staff have to be fully vaccinated now and so moving forward with vaccine mandates for all of our students is the right thing to do, and of course is consistent with the fact that our students are already required to get vaccinated for a number of diseases to attend school."

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He added that the district has been consulting with UC San Diego Health experts on the plan to move ahead following court action that delayed the original start date in late January.

"Their advice is this is the most important strategy to prevent the virus from spreading on campus," Barrera said.

Barrera joined KPBS Midday Edition Wednesday to talk more about the vaccine requirement.

The Board's student representative Zachary Patterson did not support the proposal because he believes the mandate should have already been in effect. He said, "I believe that the steps we already took, were sufficient to mandate vaccines in a timeline that would be going on right now."

RELATED: Teachers caught in the middle as schools wait for next steps on masking

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About 80% of San Diego Unified students 16 and over are fully vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine has full FDA authorization for those ages.

"There are a number of vaccines we require in school and basically you have to check three boxes," said Dr. Mark Sawyer from the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Does the disease spread in schools? Is the disease serious and do we have a vaccine that works well to prevent it? I think you can argue the COVID vaccine checks all those boxes.. The current vaccines do not prevent all transmission, so there will continue to be some spread in schools but there would be less if we had a vaccine mandate."

Sawyer added the vaccines are safe, with side effects comparable to adults.

"The side effects from the vaccine are much less than either the cardiac effects of COVID infection itself or other complications from COVID including death," Sawyer said.

San Diego Unified will enforce COVID vaccination mandate for students 16 and up starting with summer session

San Diego Unified had scheduled to take up this vaccination mandate earlier, but lawsuits delayed proceedings. There are still two legal challenges. One challenge in state court relates to exemptions and another in federal court, where the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear the challenge but could reconsider. The reason is linked to the district's refusal to allow religious exemptions. Attorneys representing a 16-year-old Scripps Ranch High School student and her parents said the legal challenge will continue on.

"The Supreme Court made clear that it is watching this case and that our client can come back and seek emergency relief in the future should the need arise," said attorney Paul Jonna with LiMandri & Jonna LLP. "Thus, our legal team will be poised and ready to seek further relief at the Supreme Court if and when SDUSD reinstates all or part of their unconstitutional vaccine mandate."

The statement was issued on Sunday after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Last October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued vaccination requirements for students ages 12 and over once full FDA approval is achieved. That mandate is scheduled to take effect July 1.

  • Last night, San Diego Unified passed a plan to require all students 16 and up to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, nonprofits in San Diego are feeling the pinch due to record breaking prices at the pump.
  • The school board voted unanimously to enforce the vaccine mandate, which has already been challenged in court. Next, San Diego Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry announced his resignation amid an effort by the city council to change how the commission operates. Then, New York Times op-ed columnist and PBS contributor David Brooks joins Midday Edition ahead of his appearance at the Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. And, new data show more than 21,000 San Diego college students receive food assistance through the CalFresh program. They represent a fraction of those who are eligible for help. Finally, not far from downtown San Diego, in the heart of Barrio Logan, there’s a special culinary classroom where children as young as 10-years-old are learning the art of cooking.

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