California plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance by next fall

California plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible K-12 students once the FDA gives formal approval, becoming the first state to implement a vaccine requirement for all children in public and private schools. 

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that the COVID-19 vaccine would be added to the list of immunizations required for school attendance, joining other required immunizations, such as the measles and polio vaccines. Medical and religious exemptions will be allowed. 

Newsom said he plans for the mandate to come into effect in July 2022 as Pfizer and BioNTech only recently submitted data to the FDA from trials with children ages 5-11. 

California has already ordered healthcare workers, state employees, and educators to be fully vaccinated or tested regularly. Other school districts in the state, like Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, have also moved to require vaccines for all students. 

Earlier this month, PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin told The Campanile that the district would not require a COVID-19 vaccination without a state-wide mandate. However, following Friday’s announcement, Austin said he approved of the state government’s leadership but shared his concerns over the proposed timeline of the plan. 

“I’m glad the state took some ownership of something that was squarely in their purview to provide that leadership,” Austin said. “I just wish the timing was better thought out. I understand those families who are concerned about a mandate for a vaccine that is not FDA approved yet.”

Austin said that the mandate could also affect staff working in PAUSD. 

“We do have employees that are either unvaccinated or declined to state,” Austin said. “That could provide staffing issues midyear that we did not have four hours ago.”