What to Know: California's COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Students

The vaccine mandate for schoolchildren will not take effect right away

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday imposed the nation’s first coronavirus vaccination mandate for schoolchildren. But the mandate won’t take effect immediately and won’t apply to all students.

Here are some of the details:

  • All elementary through high school students in public and private schools must eventually get the shots if they want in-person instruction. But first the vaccines must get final approval by the federal government for specific age groups. So far that approval only has come for those 16 and up. The federal government has given emergency authorization for those 12 to 15. Once final approval is given for that group — likely within the next few months — then the state will require students in seventh through 12th grades to get vaccinated.
  • The mandate takes effect the semester after the federal government gives final approval. Newsom expects that to be as early as Jan. 1 but no later than July 1. The mandate for kindergarten through sixth grade will kick in only after the federal government has given final vaccine approval for students ages 5 to 11.
  • Students can seek religious and medical exemptions, because the new requirements are being imposed by public health regulation instead of by law. The California Department of Public Health will have to approve the regulations, including the scope of the exemptions, after a public comment period.
  • Students who refuse to be vaccinated will have to take independent study courses at home.
  • California in August became the first state to require that all K-12 public and private school teachers and staff be vaccinated or undergo weekly tests. The new rules eliminate the testing option. All teachers will have to be vaccinated when the mandate kicks in for the children they teach.
  • Five California school districts already have their own vaccine requirements: Culver City Unified; Los Angeles Unified; Oakland Unified; Piedmont Unified; and San Diego Unified. The rules in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, will take effect in January, and Newsom said the state won’t stop other districts that want to move more quickly than the state mandate.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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