Two East Bay School Districts Consider COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Students

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Two school districts in the East Bay are taking a hard look at new COVID-19 vaccine requirements for students.

Leaders with the West Contra Costa Unified and Oakland Unified school districts are discussing the possibility of enforcing a vaccine mandate for all eligible students.

The Oakland Unified School District said they will vote on requiring the vaccine for all eligible students in a meeting next week.

If the resolution is approved, Oakland Unified School District would be the first school district in Northern California to pass such measure.

Earlier on Thursday, officials said that West Contra Costa school board members were planning to hold a special meeting next week that would mandate students 12 and older be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. Those who don’t make the deadline would have to switch to remote learning.

But as of Thursday night, a spokesperson with the West Contra Costa Unified School District told NBC Bay Area that while they are still exploring the possibility of a student vaccine mandate, they have not set a date to vote on it. It's a departure from the earlier statements.

Meanwhile, school board members in Oakland will vote on vaccine requirements for students 12 and older on Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oakland District 1 Director Sam Davis said there's still a lot that needs to be discussed but said the goal of the mandate is student safety.

"We really believe that what will make students safest is if all students age 12 and up are vaccinated," Davis said.

Davis sat with students from all over Oakland's high schools and learned there are a lot of concerns that need to be addressed.

"In terms of implementation, timeline, what exemptions there will be, those are big questions that I want to hear from my colleagues," Davis said. "This is just a proposal at this point."

Over 50% of children between 12 and 18 years old in Oakland are fully vaccinated, while over 70% have had one dose.

Natalie Gallegos Chavez, a junior at Oakland High School, fears those who refuse to get vaccinated could be forced back into distance learning.

"Our distance learning school is very packed and it's not structured all the way correctly," she said.

Others worry some students don’t have equal access to the tools needed to succeed in distance learning. 

Meanwhile, health leaders in Marin County are preparing to vaccinate kids age 5-11, with the Food and Drug Administration anticipating approval of a Pfizer vaccine for those younger children next month. Marin County's goal is to give the first dose to at least 75% of children in the county, according to a spokesperson.

"In order to do that, we are working very closely with the Marin County Office of Education to identify opportunities to have these school-based clinics as well as some one-day larger clinics to make it easy for families to access the vaccine," said Laine Hendricks of Marin Public Health.

The health department will work with local pediatricians on a vaccination plan, and the vaccine would be optional, Hendricks added.

With more schools and communities shifting their vaccination efforts to children, the Los Angeles Unified School District made national news by setting a deadline of Oct. 31 for all eligible students to be vaccinated. The district saw some major outbreaks since school opened, with more than 5,000 students in the district testing positive.

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