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COVID-19 Vaccine To Be Required For K-12 School Staff and Students in Phases
On October 1, 2021, Governor Newsom announced a forthcoming statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for both school staff and students. For students, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will be adding the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance—such as measles, mumps, and rubella.
Governor Newsom explained that the vaccine mandate will be rolled out in phases. The first phase of the mandate, which will apply to students in grades 7-12, and all school employees and paraprofessionals, will go into effect at the start of the next academic term following full FDA approval (as opposed to emergency use authorization) of the vaccine for children ages 12-15. This means that the first phase of the mandate with take effect on either January 1, 2022, or July 1, 2022, which are defined as the first days of their respective academic terms. 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. For example, a student who is in 7th grade, but is only 11 years old, will be required to be vaccinated once they turn 12.
The timing of the second phase of the mandate, which will apply to students in grades K-6, will depend on when the COVID-19 vaccine has full FDA approval for that age group. Governor Newsom stated he anticipates that all K-6 students will be required to receive the vaccine prior to the 2022-2023 school year.
The Governor explained that under the current plan, exemptions to this mandate will be available not only for medical and religious belief grounds, but for personal belief grounds as well. However, if the legislature adds the COVID-19 vaccine to the current statutory structure, the personal belief and religious exemptions may be eliminated.
Many private schools and some public school districts have already implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees and students age 12 and above and the Governor’s announcement today provides greater support for those mandates. In fact, Governor Newsom encouraged local health jurisdictions and local education agencies to move forward more expeditiously with their own timelines than the state in implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
We anticipate that guidelines and the regulation regarding this COVID-19 mandate will be issued in the near future, and LCW will provide an update when those are available. LCW attorneys are available to assist with questions about this statewide mandate.