California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that the state will add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of immunizations students are required to get to attend in-person public and private schools.
California is the first state to announce such plans. COVID-19 vaccines will join the ranks of vaccine for measles, mumps, polio, hepatitis B, pertussis, tetanus, and chicken pox, which are already required for school attendance.
The mandate isn’t immediate. The requirement will not kick in until the vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for school aged children. As such, the requirement will be phased in by grade groups—grades 7 through 12 and K-6—and begin at the start of the school term following full FDA approval.
Currently, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is fully approved only for those ages 16 and above. But it is also authorized for use in ages 12 and above based on an Emergency Use Authorization.
Officials expect that the vaccine will gain full approval in the near future for people ages 12 and up, which would correspond to children in the 7-12 grade group. Thus, the state expects the COVID-19 vaccine requirement to kick in for kids in that grade group by July 1, 2022. The younger grade group, K-6, which generally includes children ages 5 to 11, will likely see their requirement go into effect later, following FDA-approval.
“This will accelerate our effort to get this pandemic behind us,” Newsom told CNN Friday. “We already mandate 10 vaccines. In so many ways… it’s probably the most predictable announcement.”
Newsom noted that more than 63 percent of children 12 to 17 in the state had already received at least on dose of vaccine.
Several school districts in California have already moved to require COVID-19 vaccination for students. That includes school districts in Los Angeles, Culver City, Piedmont, Oadkland, and San Diego.