SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is delaying a coronavirus vaccine mandate for school children until at least the summer of 2023.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration announced the change on Thursday.
California was the first state to announce that it would require all school children to receive the coronavirus vaccine. But the mandate won’t go into effect until federal regulators give final approval to the childhood vaccine. It hasn’t happened yet.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said school districts would need more time to implement the mandate once federal approval is obtained. State officials say the warrant won’t take place until July 1, 2023.
California is one of two states, plus the District of Columbia, that has announced a coronavirus vaccine mandate for K-12 public schools, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.
California parents should have an easier time getting their school-aged children exempt from the state’s upcoming coronavirus vaccine mandate after a state lawmaker announced Thursday that it would stop trying to block personal belief exemptions from the new rules.
Governor Gavin Newsom has said the state will eventually require all California school children to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It hasn’t done so yet because, although federal regulators have allowed the vaccine to be used on children in emergencies, they have yet to give it final approval. Once that happens, Newsom says the state’s vaccine mandate will likely go into effect the following semester.
State law would allow two exceptions to the coronavirus vaccine: medical reasons and personal beliefs. A medical reason often requires proof from a doctor. But a personal belief exemption is easier to obtain, requiring a letter from the student or parent stating their objections.
State Sen. Richard Pan, a Democrat from Sacramento who is also a pediatrician, drafted a bill in the Legislature earlier this year that would have prevented students from using the personal belief exemption to avoid the vaccine. against the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Pan announced he was holding the bill, meaning it will not become law this year. While nearly 75% of California’s population has been vaccinated, rates among children 17 and under are much lower. Just under 34% of children ages 5 to 11 have received the vaccine, while just over 66.4% of children ages 12 to 17 have received it, according to state data. .
“Until children’s access to COVID vaccination is greatly improved, I believe a statewide policy requiring COVID vaccination in schools is not the immediate priority, although ‘This is appropriate safety policy for many school districts in communities with good access to vaccines,’ Pan said in a press release.
Pan did not say he withdrew the bill due to lack of support. A poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 64% of registered voters support coronavirus vaccine requirements for schools – including 55% of voters who are parents of school-aged children. The poll was released in February based on a sample of 8,937 registered voters in California, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
It is the second vaccine-related bill to fail the California Legislature this year before it even passed. Last month, Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks withdrew a bill that would have required all California businesses to require coronavirus vaccines for their employees – a move she attributed to “a welcome new chapter of this pandemic, with the virus in decline at the moment”.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have dropped significantly following a winter surge of the omicron variant. State officials have removed most virus restrictions, no longer requiring masks in schools or other public places.
“Certainly a lot of parents are thrilled that Senator Pan is withdrawing this bill. It’s one less thing they have to worry about,” said Jonathan Zachreson, the parent of three high school students who founded the advocacy group Reopen California Schools. “The fact is that children aged 5 to 11 have had access to vaccines for some time and their low uptake, I think, clearly shows what parents think about the vaccine.”
Other vaccine-related bills are still pending in the California Legislature, including one that would allow school children 12 and older to receive the coronavirus vaccine without parental permission. Currently, California requires parental permission for vaccines unless they are specifically intended to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.