California becomes first state to require COVID-19 vaccines for eligible children
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that all eligible students will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, making California the first state in the country to do so.
Speaking at James Denman Middle School in San Francisco, the governor applauded the high immunization rates among staff and students in the San Francisco Unified School District, who had so far avoided implementing a mandate to vaccination for children. About 90 percent of San Francisco youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully immunized, according to data from San Francisco.
“I challenged staff, families and students, one of the things we need to do is take care of each other. And to achieve that, we make sure we get vaccinated and wear masks, ”San Francisco Unified Superintendent Vincent Matthews said. “This community has responded massively. “
The new requirement will come into effect once the shot has received final approval for the younger age groups. Currently, the two-shot Pfizer vaccine is already approved for people as young as 12 years old.
Pfizer has submitted research to the United States Food and Drug Administration on its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5 to 11, and approval is still pending.
In September, SFUSD opened four new vaccination clinics in schools across the city. These sites include Malcolm X Academy School in Bayview, Balboa High School in Excelsior, McCoppin Elementary School in Inner Richmond, and Sunset Elementary School in Outer Sunset.
The locations offer doses once a week, including evenings and weekends. Community members who are not part of SFUSD are also encouraged to get vaccinated at clinics, where walk-in people are welcome. Each of the four school sites has the initial capacity to deliver 62 doses per day and is ready to scale up to 200 per day, as needed.
“Our immunization rates are high, but we still have work to do to close the remaining gap. Our priority remains to protect our most vulnerable populations, especially children under 12 who started the school year without being vaccinated, ”said Director of Health, Dr Grant Colfax. “Thanks to our guidance, we have put in place many safeguards to support schools, and immunization of the school community is a critical part of our efforts. “
The most recent announcement joins the list of around 10 other illnesses that San Francisco students need to be vaccinated against to attend school in person, including chickenpox, measles and tetanus. Religious and medical exemptions will be considered, and families who refuse to comply will be offered distance learning through independent study.
“These requirements are working… they are ending this pandemic and educating our children,” Newsom said on Friday, referring to other local and statewide vaccine requirements, such as the one for healthcare workers who entered into force on Friday. “If that’s the intention, to shake up our economy and bring our kids back to teaching in person, then I say let’s go ahead and get others to follow.”
Several principals in San Francisco have said they support the governor’s directive.
“I hope this will alleviate the concerns of many educators about the spread of COVID-19 and lead to a decrease in teacher absences and an increase in the number of substitute teachers available,” said Michael Essien, president of United Administrators of San Francisco. “This immunization mandate will help education return to a semblance of normalcy. Our future matters.
Reviewer editor Ida Mojadad contributed to this report.