California becomes first state in nation to announce vaccine requirements for students

After mounting pressure from the community and school boards, California on Friday became the first in the nation to announce to require eligible students to be vaccinated for in-person learning.

A vaccine mandate is already in effect for some school districts across the Golden State including Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest district in the nation, as well as Culver City Unified. 

"Our students deserve stability, access to school-based resources, services, and support. They deserve every opportunity to remain in the classroom learning with their peers, and this is made possible when we move forward and implement those protocols that will allow our schools to remain the safest places for our students, staff, and families. I am grateful for today’s decision, underscoring California’s commitment to ensure the wellbeing of students, families, and staff," said Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools.


The rules will go into effect statewide either on Jan. 1 or July 1 of 2022, depending on when the Food and Drug Administration will give full approval of the vaccine for children. The vaccine mandate will apply to students who attend public and private schools. 


Based on current projections for full approval for ages 12 and older, the governor's office said it anticipated the requirement would apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1. 

Students who are under the age of full approval will be required to be vaccinated once they reach the age of full approval, with a reasonable period of time to receive both doses. A student who is not vaccinated may remain enrolled in independent study, but may not attend in-person instruction, according to the governor's order. 

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate will be treated just like other vaccinations required to attend school, such as measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). 

There may be exemptions "for both medical reasons and personal beliefs." State officials also noted the requirements will be phased in by grade span. 

A healthcare worker administers a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to a student at a mobile vaccination clinic at a high school in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (Photographer: Jill Connelly/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In addition, Newsom also directed that adults be held to at least the same standards as students for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

While currently, California requires all K-12 educators to verify their vaccination status or be tested weekly, all adult staff will now be required to be vaccinated no later than when the requirement takes effect for students. 

The governor's announcement comes after a handful of school districts, including San Diego Unified, West Contra Costa Unified and Oakland Unified have all approved vaccine mandates for students. Public schools in Piedmont and Hayward have also enacted vaccine mandates. 

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Newsom spoke at a school in the San Francisco Unified School District, where Supt. Vincent Matthews and state Sen. Scott Wiener championed the rule. 

Some school board members have lamented the piecemeal approach to vaccination orders and called on the state to have a more unified approach.

Some school board members have faced harassment from parents who don't want their children to be vaccinated or wear masks in schools.

At a school board meeting in Richmond on Thursday, some parents expressed their hesitation with the new rules. 

"My son is a very healthy person," said parent George Poole, attending what he said was his first board meeting. "We don't have any idea about the long-term effects of this vaccine."

But vaccines are safe and effective, health experts across the country have ruled. 

Contra Costa County's Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano explained that vaccine complications reported among teens are minuscule compared to the protection provided individuals and families. 

"I have teenage nephews myself and I am so glad they got the vaccine," said Farrnitano, adding, "it is the most powerful tool we have."

California’s schools have been open for nearly a month longer than most other states, Newsom said, but have experienced school closures at a far lower rate. 

California educates approximately 12% of students in the nation but California schools account for approximately 0.5% of school closures, which have occurred to regions with lower vaccination rates. 

KTVU's Debora Villalon contributed to this report.

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