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California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced Thursday that its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchildren will not happen until at least the summer of next year.
In 2021, the Golden State was the first to announce that it would require all school-aged children to receive the vaccine. The mandate would allow exemptions for medical reasons and personal beliefs.
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Newsom said he was waiting for final approval from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators to enforce the mandate.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone above the age of five years old get vaccinated against COVID-19 – and everyone ages 12 years and older get boosted – the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine authorized or approved for emergency use in children ages 5 through 17 years.
FILE – Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2021.
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Additionally, federal regulators have not yet granted final approval for coronavirus vaccine use to anyone younger than 16.
“So based on these two facts — we don’t have full FDA approval, and we recognize the implementation challenges that schools and school leaders would face — that we are not moving to have a vaccine requirement for schools in this coming academic year and no sooner than July 2023,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly explained in an interview.
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California and Louisiana are the only states that have announced a vaccine mandate for K-12 schools, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy. Washington, D.C. also has a mandate.
As COVID-19 cases have fallen since the winter’s omicron surge, state officials have lifted or eased most pandemic restrictions.
Although nearly 75% of Californians have been vaccinated, rates for children ages 17 and under are much lower.
State data shows that just under 34% of children between the ages of 5-11 have received the vaccine, while just over 66.4% of children ages 12-17 have gotten it.
A bill that would have blocked students from using the personal belief exemption to avoid the vaccine is being held by Democratic Sen. Richard Pan.
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“Until children’s access to COVID vaccination is greatly improved, I believe that a state-wide policy to require COVID vaccination in schools is not the immediate priority, although it is an appropriate safety policy for many school districts in communities with good vaccine access,” he in a release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.