Governor Announces Vaccine Mandate to Take Effect in California Schools

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Photo Courtesy of Christian Emmer

Governor Gavin Newsom announces that schools will have to start requiring students to be vaccinated. The plan remains to take effect, and is garnering pushback from many who are vaccine hesitant.

Sandhya Ganesan , Co-Editor-In-Cheif

California governor Gavin Newsom declared October 1 that California will enforce a vaccine mandate for school children ranging from grades 7-12. However, while the mandate moves towards a permanent integration of vaccine requirements into society, the enforcement lacks the force to make it effective. 

Newsom’s mandate followed the trend of many local district policies in the area. LA Unified, one of the largest school districts in the state, has required inoculation against COVID-19 for all students ages 12 and older. A similar requirement was enforced in the San Diego school district that requires vaccination for all students 16 and older, the age range that is approved by the FDA to receive the vaccine. 

“This mandate will be a condition of in-person attendance. (HSC section 120335(f)). A student who is not vaccinated may remain enrolled in independent study, but may not attend in-person instruction,” said Superintendent Tim Brooks in a press briefing for CUSD. 

These school district requirements are moving at a much faster rate than Newsom’s proposed mandate. Newsom has made it clear that the mandate will not take effect until all ages grades 7-12 are approved to receive the vaccination by the FDA. However, the FDA has only approved the vaccine for ages 16 and older, covering grades 10-12, and emergency status has been issued for ages 12-15 nationwide. 

The mandate will also cover adults working in educational facilities.

“The Governor has also directed that adults be held to at least the same standards as students for the COVID-19 vaccine. While currently, California requires all K-12 staff to verify their vaccination status or be tested weekly, all staff will be required to be vaccinated no later than when the requirement takes effect for students,” said Brooks.

Newsom has also made it clear that the mandate will work with the Department of Public Health to facilitate a system for those with religious and personal beliefs against the vaccine to be exempt from receiving the vaccine. 

The mandate for the vaccine against COVID-19 has been applied to schools as a regulation, but has not been formally required through legislation. The existing California Health and Safety Code requires that any additional vaccinations the government requires for enrollment and jobs in schools that are not formally added through a  legislation to include conditions for exemption. These exemptions include religious and personal beliefs that prevent an individual from taking the vaccine. 

Inclusion of the vaccine against COVID-19 as a regulation, and not formally integrating it into California legislation, poses difficulties that the government will have to address as the mandate takes effect. Because it is being introduced as a regulation, the mandate lacks power in effectively reducing the number of COVID-19 cases because it will be exempt from the vaccinations.  

In the future, if the delta variant continues to spread, it would more heavily impact students exempt from the vaccine, as it has been evidenced that the many variants of COVID-19 take a heavier toll on those who haven’t been vaccinated. Furthermore, Newsom’s mandate specifically pertaining to schools has evoked criticism from individuals who find it hypocritical that a regulation has been issued for children, yet not for incarcerated individuals who are at greater risk by being constantly in close quarters with others, and prison staff. More details on the COVID-19 relief approach remain to be divulged as the mandate in schools has yet to take effect.