SAN FRANCISCO – At a school in San Francisco, Governor Newsom announced plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person when the vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for middle and high school grades, making California the first state in the nation to announce such a measure. Following the other first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination measures, Governor Newsom announced the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for in-person school attendance—just like vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and more.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19. Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom,” said Governor Newsom. “Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Thanks to the state’s bold public health measures, California continues to maintain the lowest case rate in the entire country and is one of only two states to have advanced out of the CDC’s ‘high’ COVID transmission category. More information about the announcement can be found here.
The vast majority of school districts have reported that over 95% of students have returned to in-person instruction this school year, as can be seen on the state’s Student Supports & In-Person Dashboard. Thanks to unprecedented resources and public health measures (measures shown to be highly effective), California is leading national trends in preventing school closures and keeping kids in classrooms, accounting for only 14 out of over 2,000 school closures nationwide, or roughly 0.7% – despite the fact that California educates an estimated 12% of the nation’s public school students. If California’s rates had aligned with national trends, the state would have seen upwards of 240 school closures.
In order to further protect students and staff and continue supporting a safe return to in-person instruction for all students, the Governor directed the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to follow the procedures established by the Legislature to add the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance—such as measles, mumps, and rubella—pursuant to the Health and Safety Code. COVID-19 vaccine requirements will be phased-in by grade span, which will also promote smoother implementation.
Upon full FDA approval of age groups within a grade span, CDPH will consider the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians prior to implementing a requirement. Following existing statute, full approval of ages 12+ corresponds to grades 7-12, and full approval of ages 5-11 corresponds to grades K-6. 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. The requirement will take effect at the start of the term following full approval of that grade span, to be defined as January 1st or July 1st, whichever comes first. Based on current information, the requirement is expected to apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022. However, local health jurisdictions and local education agencies are encouraged to implement requirements ahead of a statewide requirement based on their local circumstances.
Governor Newsom’s historic $123.9 billion Pre-K and K-12 education package is providing an unprecedented level of school and student funding to transform the state’s public schools into gateways of equity and opportunity, supporting the potential of every California student by: achieving universal transitional kindergarten for four-year-olds by 2025, expanding afterschool and summer programs, providing universal free school nutrition, increasing the number of well-prepared staff per pupil, creating full-service community schools to support the mental and social-emotional well-being of students, and more.