California quietly abandons COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchildren – Orange County Register
With the pandemic emergency quickly ending, California officials appear to have quietly backed off plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for K-12 students, a move that avoids the prospect of excluding tens of thousands of unvaccinated children from the classroom.
The postponement comes 14 months after Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a San Francisco middle school to explain plans to make California the first state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for its more than 6 million students.
The immunization mandate, originally due to take effect last summer, has been pushed back another 12 months as vaccination rates among youngsters slackened, sparking debate about how the requirement could help disadvantaged students who are already struggling academically and emotionally to break away from school suspensions recovering from pandemics would penalize disproportionately.
Now, without notice or explanation, the government appears to be quietly dropping the COVID-19 vaccination mandate altogether. Education news site EdSource reported on Feb. 1 that the state would not pursue it, citing unnamed officials. When the Bay Area News Group asked if the state was dropping plans for the mandate, the California Department of Health did not respond directly, but did not dispute the EdSource report, noting that “emergency regulations are not being followed.”
“Legislators reviewed this issue last year and did not enact legislation mandating COVID-19 vaccines for K-12 students,” the CDPH said in a statement. “The state’s COVID-19 emergency will end later this month, and per the federal government’s recent announcement, the federal public health emergency will end in May.”
Newsom’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
But school officials like Superintendent Eric Volta of the Liberty Union High School District in Contra Costa County weren’t surprised and, for logistical and practical reasons, didn’t expect the mandate would ever materialize.
“I would have been shocked if they had pushed further,” Volta said.
Most childhood vaccinations, Volta noted, involve one or two shots and that’s it. But with the COVID-19 vaccines proving temporary in protection, public health officials have been pushing for booster shots at least annually, if not more often.
“I don’t know how we can track a vaccine that’s given annually, that’s what it boils down to,” Volta said. “Vaccinations up to 8th grade is one thing, but annual vaccination? Oh, that would be a challenge to pursue. And not to mention families being told they can’t come to school because you don’t have that shot?”
Newsom said in October 2021 his plan was for the mandate to begin in July 2022 with grades 7 through 12, provided the Food and Drug Administration had given full approval of vaccines for the ages of students enrolled in those grades by then . Mandates for K-6 students would follow once the vaccine is fully approved for those ages as well.
The FDA granted full approval for Pfizer’s original-formulated COVID-19 vaccines for people 16 years and older in August 2021 and for people 12 years and older in July 2022. However, primary vaccines for people under 12 years of age and booster shots will continue to be processed under an accelerated emergency permit issued.
In April 2022, the CDPH announced that the mandate would not be enforced for the 2022-23 school year. It was the Newsom administration’s last announcement on the matter. That same day, State Senator Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, announced that he would withdraw his bill that would not only have required the COVID-19 vaccination to attend K-12 schools, but would also have eliminated exceptions for personal beliefs , as he had in 2015 other required vaccinations.
At the time, thousands of middle and high school students were unvaccinated and threatened with expulsion. And vaccination rates among school-age children have not improved much since then. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 25% of California children ages 12 to 17 and 60% of those ages 5 to 11 have not been fully vaccinated against the virus.
Pan has since left office, and there are no more COVID-19 vaccination mandate bills for schoolchildren in the legislative funnel.
In any case, the bills proved problematic. In cases where parents have successfully sued to block district-level COVID-19 vaccine mandates, courts have ruled that lawmakers gave that power to the CDPH rather than local school boards.
In light of recent court decisions, several large districts that have moved to enforce their own mandates, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and West Contra Costa counties, have said they are following the state’s lead.
Some school officials are frustrated by the administration’s silence on an assignment that would take a long time to prepare. “When it’s over, just say so,” Peter Livingston, Unified Superintendent of Lucerne Valley in San Bernardino County, told EdSource.
A lot has changed since October 2021. Although children remain least at risk from the virus, current Omicron variants have been largely mild for adults as well. Most Americans, vaccinated or not, have contracted some version of the virus. Mask and distance rules have been removed.
And the state has ended its requirement that unvaccinated school teachers be tested regularly to get on campus, effectively removing the vaccination mandate for teachers.
Health officials, meanwhile, are unsure how many additional vaccine boosters are needed and what formula. Variants of the virus that were widespread last year – and on which the latest updated vaccine booster was based – are giving way to newer strains. All this complicates the implementation of a mandate.
“If this was something they wanted to push forward,” Volta said, “it would be interesting how they would go about it.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/06/california-quietly-abandons-covid-19-vaccine-mandate-for-school-kids/ California quietly abandons COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchildren – Orange County Register