California School Districts Respond to State’s Delay of Student Vaccine Mandate

California School Districts Respond to State’s Delay of Student Vaccine Mandate
High school student, 17, receives her first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine administered by Medical Assistants from St. John's Well Child and Family Center at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles on April 23, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Micaela Ricaforte

Local school districts in California are deciding whether to implement the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for K–12 students to attend in-person instructions after the state postponed the mandate until at least mid-2023.

The state Department of Public Health announced on April 14 that the state will delay its vaccine mandate for students from July 2022 to July 2023 because the vaccines have yet to be fully approved for children by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but local school districts can set their own protocols.

Currently, Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine with full FDA approval for ages 16 and up, though it has emergency authorization for ages 5–15.

The state’s two largest districts—Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and San Diego Unified School District—each previously set plans to implement student COVID-19 vaccine mandates later this year.

The Los Angeles Unified has not yet confirmed whether the district is sticking to its plan to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students ages 12 and up this fall.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Unified told The Epoch Times that the district “will continue to review, assess and consult with our medical experts as we remain guided by the prevailing science and updated policies from local, state and federal health authorities.”

About 87 percent of eligible LAUSD students are already vaccinated, according to the spokesperson.

If the district upholds its mandate, unvaccinated students will need to enroll in the district’s online learning programs for the upcoming school year.

The San Diego Unified announced last week it plans to continue its vaccine mandate for students ages 16 and up, effective as early as July for the district’s summer school program.

San Diego Unified Board trustee Richard Barrera told NBC that the district only requires vaccination for students ages 16 or older since the vaccine only has full FDA approval for that age group.

About 80 percent of this age group has been vaccinated, according to Barrera.

“In order to attend in-person they must be vaccinated. If not, they'll enroll in the online program Virtual Academy,” Barrera said.

California’s other major school districts indicated they are following the state’s guidelines unless the state mandates the COVID vaccines later.

A spokesperson for the Long Beach Unified School District, the state’s fourth-largest district, told The Epoch Times it plans “to implement any future COVID vaccination mandate for students as directed by the California Department of Public Health,” but that the district “still encourage[s] vaccination for all who are eligible.”

The Corona-Norco Unified School District and the Capistrano Unified School District also confirmed to the Epoch Times that they will not implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students unless required by the state health department.

Though the COVID-19 vaccine has not received full FDA approval and the mandate is delayed, California Department of Public Health Director Tomás J. Aragón still urged Californians and their children to get vaccinated.

“CDPH strongly encourages all eligible Californians, including children, to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Aragón said in an April 14 statement. “We continue to ensure that our response to the COVID-19 pandemic is driven by the best science and data available.”
California Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) announced last week he would withdraw Senate Bill 871, a bill he introduced in January that would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the state’s list of required vaccines for students to attend public K–12 schools while eliminating personal belief exemption—making the bill stricter than the student vaccine mandate recently postponed by the state.
“Until children’s access to COVID vaccination is greatly improved, I believe that a statewide policy to require COVID vaccination in schools is not the immediate priority,” Pan said in an April 14 statement.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Public Health Department was not immediately available for comment.

Spokespeople for other major school districts in the state, including the San Diego Unified, Fresno Unified, San Francisco Unified, San Bernadino Unified, and San Juan Unified, were not immediately available for comment.

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.