California to Require COVID-19 Vaccine for Students to Attend Schools

October 1, 2021 Updated: October 31, 2021

California students will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school once the vaccines have received full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Oct 1.

Federal drug regulators have already approved the COVID-19 vaccine for individuals ages 16 and older, meaning all upper-class high school students will need to be fully vaccinated to attend both public and private schools.

Only an emergency authorization has been granted for anyone 12 to 15. When the FDA approves the vaccine for that age group, students in seventh grade and up also be required to get vaccinated. The requirement is foreseen to be implemented in the next term, either Jan. 1 or July 1 of 2022.

“What we are announcing here today, a statewide requirement for in-person instruction for all of our children to add to a well-established list that currently includes ten vaccinations and well-established rules and regulations that have been advanced by the legislator for decades. To add to that list, the vaccination for COVID-19, we intend to do that once the FDA has fully approved the vaccine which will give us time to work with districts,” Newsom said during an Oct. 1 press conference.

The governor announced the vaccine mandate at the San Francisco Unified School District alongside state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat.

The governor further announced staff working in K-12 schools will also be required to be vaccinated, and eventually everyone once FDA approval is granted for students in K-6.

Newsom said religious and medical exemptions will be permitted under the state’s mandate.

Wiener applauded the governor’s effort in combating the COVID-19 virus within schools.

“The legislator has shown over and over again that we are willing to pass strong vaccination laws, and if we have to come back and do it again next year, we will do that,” Wiener said.

However, the move drew criticism from some.

Mari Barke, Chair of the Orange County Board of Education, said that it should be up to parents to decide what is best for children.

“I’m certainly not proud that California is the first state to mandate this. I think parents are the best to make these types of decisions for their children, so I’m very disappointed,” Barke told The Epoch Times.

“I believe strongly in parental rights and parents knowing what’s best for their children. This vaccine has had the least testing of any vaccine. It’s not a virus that is killing lots of children unless they have severe co-morbidities, and I think it’s government overreach.”

Barke said that due to this measure, she believes a lot of parents will be taking their children out of school in order to homeschool them. Many parents do not want their children masked in school, let alone vaccinated, she added.

“I really think you’re going to see a huge amount of children coming out of schools and being homeschooled,” she said. “We’re not in a state of emergency. We’re not in one for adults, never mind children.”

Jon Schrank, a parent of a student within Tustin Unified School District, said that he feels the move is “typical government overreach.”

“[The mandate is] not unexpected. As soon as Newsom won the recall, we all sort of knew that all these little things were going to start to come about from him,” Schrank told The Epoch Times.

“My opinion is, it’s typical government overreach. I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m pro-choice, and that’s your business, it’s not my business. So, the fact that they’re making this happen for a bunch of kids that have no risk of really getting terribly ill from it [is not good.]

Schrank said that those who are for the mandate will argue that the students will spread it to the adults who are more vulnerable, but that if the adults are vaccinated, that should take care of the problem.

“If you’re worried about it, get the vaccination, that’s your business,” he said. “I don’t think we need to have the government telling us what we need to do with our children. That’s my point of view if I want to get the vaccine for my kid, then I would do it. If I don’t want to do it, that should be my choice … It’s no longer about personal choice, it’s about government intervention.”

Schrank added that the mandate will likely only force parents to put their children back into virtual education like last year, which caused many students to fall behind.

As of Oct. 1, California has administered one dose to 63.5 percent of youth ages 12 to 17, but the governor is aiming for the new requirements to create more of an advanced incentive.

“There is still a struggle to get where we need to go,” Newsom said. “That means we need to do more, and we need to do better … we have continued to lead … California was the first state to require statewide school mask-wearing requirements. We were first in America to require all of our staff to either be vaccinated and or get weekly testing.”

Vanessa Serna is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times.