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Staff report

A mandate for California students to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus will not be happening in the immediate future.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced on April 14 that the vaccine requirement for students attending classes in-person will not go into effect before July 1, 2023.

“The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet fully approved COVID-19 vaccines for individuals of all ages within the 7–12 grade span,” a CDPH news release said. “The State of California announced last October that full approval by the FDA was a precondition to initiating the rulemaking process to add the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance—such as measles, mumps, and rubella—pursuant to California’s Health and Safety Code.”

The October announcement came from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who at that time predicted the vaccine requirement could be implemented in either January or July 2022. Under the requirement, students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 would have to go into independent study. The mandate does allow exemptions for medical, religious, and personal belief reasons.

State officials did not want to get started on the regulatory process for the requirement during the current school year in order to “ensure sufficient time for successful implementation” of the guideline, the announcement said.

If the FDA gives full approval, the health department would then consider recommendations from other agencies—including the American Academy of Pediatrics—before instituting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.

“CDPH strongly encourages all eligible Californians, including children, to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón said in the news release.

Vaccine requirements—including for students—have attracted backlash from parents and children in South Orange County, who have often attended Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees meetings to denounce the possible mandate.

School districts do not set educational health policies and have to follow CDPH guidelines.

Recently introduced legislation from State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) that proposes to add the COVID vaccination to the list of required immunizations for students has not moved forward since the bill was referred to the State Senate’s Health and Education committees in February.

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