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California to require Covid vaccine for schoolchildren, Newsom announces

“This is about keeping our kids safe & healthy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in announcing the mandate.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that the Covid-19 vaccine will be required for the state’s schoolchildren, the first such mandate in the nation.

"CA will require our kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine to come to school. This will go into effect following full FDA approval. Our schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps and more. Why? Because vaccines work. This is about keeping our kids safe & healthy,” the governor wrote in a tweet.

The federal government has fully approved the Covid vaccine for those 16 and over, but only granted an emergency authorization for anyone 12 to 15. Once federal regulators fully approve the vaccine for that group, the state will require students in seventh through 12th grades to get vaccinated in both public and private schools, Newsom’s office said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently the only Covid vaccine available to Americans under 18. In June, Moderna submitted data to the FDA to use its Covid vaccine in adolescents ages 12 to 17. Johnson & Johnson is conducting clinical trials of its one-dose vaccine in younger recipients.

Pfizer submitted its vaccine to the FDA this week for emergency use authorization in children aged 5 to 11, and approval could take weeks.

California will require the Covid vaccine for students in kindergarten through sixth grade only after the federal government has given final approval for anyone 5 to 11.

"Students who are under the age of full approval, but within the grade span, will be required to be vaccinated once they reach the age of full approval (with a reasonable period of time to receive both doses), consistent with existing procedures for other vaccines," the Governor's office said in a press release.

"The requirement will take effect at the start of the term following full approval of that grade span, to be defined as January 1st or July 1st, whichever comes first. Based on current information, the requirement is expected to apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022."

The Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, Debra Duardo, said she supported the governor's vaccine mandate: "Our students deserve stability, access to school-based resources, services, and support."

"We are mindful that there is still work to do to build trust and confidence in the vaccine among our school communities," Duardo said in a statement.

Duardo said the Los Angeles County Office of Education "will convene a working taskforce of superintendents to support the implementation of this requirement in schools throughout LA County."

The California Teachers Association also voiced support for the mandate.

"Teaching and learning are most effective in person, and the COVID-19 vaccine is a proven measure to prevent life threatening illness, keeping schools safe and open for in-person instruction, and will get us closer to being able to put this devastating pandemic behind us," CTA President E. Toby Boyd said in a statement

Boyd said that ninety percent of CTA members are vaccinated, “and an overwhelming majority supports a vaccine mandate for students and staff.”

The announcement comes as infections in most of California have dropped markedly in the last month. But Newsom has been emboldened after easily defeating a recall effort last month following a campaign where he emphasized his commitment to vaccine mandates to end the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed.