California recently imposed America’s first Covid-19 vaccine mandate for school-age children. Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the move, which could spur other states to impose similar mandates.
Current state law requires that all students enrolled in private and public schools have ten immunizations with some allowable exemptions for medical reasons.
With the coronavirus vaccine, personal and religious exemptions can be granted. Students who do not have an exemption or refuse to get the vaccine will have to do independent study at home.
The mandate eventually will affect more than 6.7 million public and private school students. California also requires masks for children in school.
The federal government has already approved Covid-19 vaccines for anyone 16 and older, with emergency authorization for children ages 12 to 15. It is expected that the vaccine will be fully endorsed for that age group within a few months.
Newsom’s announcement comes on the heels of a marked drop in Covid-19 infections. The statewide positivity rate recently fell to 2.8%, with the number of daily cases hovering at 6,355, approximately half the peak surge number reached in mid-August.
Hospitalizations have fallen by 40%.
In the nation’s largest county, Los Angeles County, which has more than 10 million residents, the daily infection rate has dropped to just 1.7% of people tested. Despite most students returning to in-person learning, the daily infection rates have fallen by half in the last month.
“These numbers are amazingly low given that 3,000-plus schools are now open countywide,” said Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Ferrer noted that even though school outbreaks had increased slightly in recent weeks, she believes most spikes are related to youth sports activities.
California has one of the highest vaccine rates in the country. Seventy percent of the population ages 12 and over are fully vaccinated, with 84% having at least one jab. Despite high vaccination rates, the state has a vocal minority who remain skeptical of the vaccine and opposed to the mandate.
In September, more than a thousand people gathered at the state capitol in Sacramento to protest the unconstitutionality of Newsom’s mandate.
“We have to do more. We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it,” Newsom said during a news conference staged at a San Francisco middle school.
However, many parents boisterously disagree with the governor’s mandate.
Fabio Zamora, father of an eighth-grader, explained, “I just think it’s a parent’s decision, you know. Period. The government, in no shape or form, should be having mandates like that. I don’t care for that. I’m a veteran. I served this country, and I fought for those rights.”
Many states have resisted imposing pandemic rules and requirements, including Kentucky, which recently overturned a statewide mask mandate. Some school districts in California, including the two largest in San Diego and Los Angeles, already have imposed their own vaccine mandates.
Newsom remains one of the nation’s most aggressive and restrictive governors, issuing the first statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020, which was quickly followed by 41 other states.
Recently, the Democrat governor issued a requirement that stated that California’s 2.2 million state employees and healthcare workers must be vaccinated or lose their jobs.
Critics argue that Newsom has not been consistent with his vaccination mandates. He recently opposed a vaccine requirement for corrections officers that a federal judge imposed.
Politics ahead of science
Critics also have jumped on Newsom’s constantly changing decisions and directives and use them as an example of the governor putting politics ahead of science. They note that Newsom received donations to his campaign to defeat the recent recall election from the correctional officer labor union.
Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley pointed out the inconsistencies tweeting, “California kids made the mistake of not giving millions to his campaigns.”
Kiley was one of the crowded field of 46 candidates who ran to replace the governor in the failed recall effort. Newsom touted his recall triumph, saying he interpreted his defeat of the recall effort as an endorsement of his vaccine policies and job performance during the pandemic.
California’s largest teacher unions back the vaccine mandate, along with the California Association of School Boards.
“This is not a new idea. We already require vaccines against several known deadly diseases before students can enroll in schools. The Newsom administration is simply extending existing public health protections to cover this new disease, which has caused so much pain and suffering across our state, our nation, and the entire globe over the last 18 months,” said Dr. Peter N. Bretah, president of the California Medical Association.
The mandate also applies to staff and teachers in K-12 private and public schools. Newsom already has required that school employees must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. However, once the student mandate is in full effect, the testing option will no longer be available.