Vaccine Mandate for California Students Announced

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

At the beginning of October, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a COVID vaccine mandate for California students 12 years of age and up.

The Governor’s office also stated that teachers and school staff would be held to the same vaccination standard and timeline under the new requirement. Currently, teachers and staff can provide proof of vaccination or submit a weekly COVID test (Gutierrez, 2021)

First, the mandate cannot go into effect until COVID vaccines are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, vaccines for students 12-15 only have emergency authorization by the FDA. Therefore, the mandate would not go into effect until the next term after approval. Terms are either January 1st or July 1st. Most experts predict that won’t happen until July 2022 (Gutierrez, 2021)

The mandate will apply to all students at public or private schools in California. A student not vaccinated may participate in independent study but may not participate in in-person instruction (Gov.Ca.Gov).

The mandate from the Governor includes exemptions for medical and personal beliefs. As stated on the ‘California Get Vaccinated’ page, “Requirements established by regulation, not legislation, must be subject to the exemption for both medical reasons and personal beliefs” pursuant to HSC section 120338. Therefore, simply stated because the mandate was established by regulation instead of legislation, it must allow for personal exemption (Gov.Ca.Gov)

Legislation passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed by the Governor could be more restrictive. The California legislature reconvenes on January 3, 2022, to start the next legislative cycle. Several lawmakers are considering legislation to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of school-required shots that qualify only for medical exemptions. 

Currently, students are required to have the following immunizations to attend school in California: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Varicella (Chickenpox), Mumps, Rubella, Hepatitis B, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B, and Measles (CCHealth.org).  

Five California districts have approved a student vaccination mandate on their own. Those districts include: Culver City Unified, L.A. Unified, Oakland Unified, Piedmont Unified, and San Diego Unified (Gov.Ca.Gov). Several lawsuits have already been filed against districts in response to the mandates.   

Many details of the mandate have yet to be determined, and the landscape of education has constantly changed during the last two years due to the pandemic. The FDA and the California State Legislature have yet to weigh in on the topic of vaccinating California students. It will likely be the summer of 2022 before the specifics are worked out. 

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