California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that all students in California schools who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination would be required to get them, once the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approves them for use.
“Our schools already require vaccines for measles, mumps and more. Why? Because vaccines work,” Newsom said in a Friday tweet. “This is about keeping our kids safe & healthy.”
California’s decision makes it the first state in the US to issue a vaccine mandate for students. Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will join other school vaccination requirements, including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, and chickenpox.
At present, the FDA has only approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for regular use. Moderna, maker of the other major vaccine being administered in the United States, submitted its paperwork for full approval to the FDA in late August, but the safety agency hasn’t yet given their two-shot vaccine its unqualified blessing. Johnson & Johnson filed its paperwork early in the year, but also has yet to be approved.
The vaccines were given emergency use authorization by the FDA in late 2020 and early 2021, pending full approval once more data became available. The EUA allows Americans ages 16 and up to get the COVID-19 immunization shots.
Since Pfizer’s vaccine is fully approved, the FDA has lowered the minimum age for receiving the vaccination to 12 years old. Earlier this week, Pfizer submitted data to the FDA seeking approval for its vaccine to be given to children ages 5-11 at one-third the dose used on adults.
After the vaccines are given full FDA approval for children under 12, parents will have until the beginning of the next school semester to get their children vaccinated.
According to CalMatters, the mandate will also apply to all public school employees. At present, they are given a choice between being vaccinated or submitting to regular COVID-19 testing. When Newsom’s Friday order takes effect, they will no longer be given a choice.
Newsom’s decision follows several major California school districts making similar moves, including San Diego and Los Angeles.
The spread of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has resulted in an unprecedented number of child hospitalizations, unlike earlier forms of the virus that largely left children untouched. The problem has only become more acute as the school year began in late August, amid what now seems to have been the peak of the latest COVID-19 wave in the US.