Published: 02nd October 2021
Get a vaccine shot or stay home and attend school: California Governor makes vaccine mandatory for physical classes
The mandate eventually will affect more than 6.7 million public and private school students in the nation's most populous state
In a move that could potentially impact the education of millions of children in the United States, California made it mandatory for students to be vaccinated against the Coronavirus to be able to attend public and private schools in person.
Governor Gavin Newsom on October 1 announced that the COVID-19 vaccine shot will be added to 10 other immunisations already required for school kids, including those for measles and mumps — this has in-effect made California the first state in the country to take such a decision.
What stands out is that exemptions would also be granted for religious or personal beliefs apart from medical reasons. However, the exemption rules haven't been written yet and are pending public comment. Any student without an exemption who refuses to get the vaccine would be forced to do independent study at home.
“We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it,” Newsom said during a news conference at a San Francisco middle school after meeting Class 7 students. “Vaccines work. It's why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates," Newsom said. As a matter of fact, California does have one of the highest vaccine rates in the country — 84 per cent of people from age 12 and older have gotten at least one shot, and 70 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The mandate will be phased in as the US government grants final vaccine approval for age groups. Currently, children from age 12 to 15 can only be administered the Pfizer vaccine and that too under an emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Vaccines for the age group of 5 to 11 are still in clinical trials. Under California's mandate, students in Class 7 to Class 12 would have to be vaccinated by the semester following full US approval of the shots for their age group, probably meaning by next July. It will be even longer for children in kindergarten through sixth grades.
The mandate eventually will affect more than 6.7 million public and private school students in the nation's most populous state. California already has a mask requirement for school children. Until now, Newsom had left the decision on student vaccine mandates to local school districts, leading to a variety of different orders. In Los Angeles, a vaccine mandate for eligible students is set to take effect in January.
The announcement drew swift reaction from parents, including some who said they should have the final choice of whether to vaccinate their children.“I'm furious. On so many levels,” said Jenny Monir, a Los Angeles mother of two who said she felt Newsom's mandate was made more for political than public health reasons. “We're just pawns in an elite game.”
Others praised Newsom's announcement. “I'm delighted to see that we're trying to get this health crisis under control,” said Andrew Patterson, father of an elementary school student in San Francisco. “And we have lots of other vaccine requirements.I don't see why this one would be any different.”
With inputs from Associated Press
Edited by Eshan Kalyanikar