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California to require all schoolchildren to get a COVID-19 vaccine, pending FDA approval

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan for the nation's first statewide coronavirus vaccination requirement for schoolchildren.

The state's plan will require all students from elementary through high school to get vaccinated once it gains final FDA approval for different age groups. The mandate would take effect the semester after the federal government grants final approval. If it comes in January, then the mandate would take effect in July.

The government has fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and over but only granted an emergency authorization for anyone 12 to 15. Once federal regulators fully approve the vaccine for that group, the state will require students in seventh through 12th grades to get vaccinated in both public and private schools, Newsom’s office said.

The state will require the COVID-19 vaccine for students in kindergarten through sixth grade only after the federal government has given final approval for anyone 5 to 11.

Students would be granted religious and medical exemptions, but the rules for how the state would apply those exemptions have not been written yet. Any student who refuses to take the vaccine would be forced to complete an independent study course at home.

In August, California became the first state in the U.S. to require all teachers and staff in K-12 public and private schools to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Newsom also issued a school mask mandate earlier in the summer for indoor classes that applies to all teachers and students.

News Channel 3 spoke to valley parents with mixed reactions to the announcement.

“I guess more people are going to home school now. I feel they’re too young to get [the vaccine]. Especially because it’s new," said Bernie Sade, a La Quinta mother.

Leslie Dekker, a mother of two visiting the area, shared that her kids are vaccinated, but she still believes the decision should be up to each family: “It should be my should not be the governor’s choice."

Others agreed with the governor that vaccines are critical when it comes to protecting everyone’s health on campus.

“We have to take care of the little ones too. I think it’s irresponsible not to get the vaccine," said Monica Moncayo.

Newsom added the announcement shouldn’t come as a shock: “We already mandate 10 vaccines," he said on Friday.

Some parents say COVID-19 vaccines should be added to that mandatory list: “My son is three years old and he goes and gets his shots. You have a report card that has all your shots why not add COVID to the list too?" said Madison Fischer, a mother in Palm Desert.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

Jesus Reyes

Associated Press

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Madison Weil

Madison Weil joined the KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 News Team in June 2018. Learn more about Madison here.


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