On October 1, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California will require a COVID-19 vaccine for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade who attend in-person instruction at a public or private school. The COVID-19 vaccine requirement will occur only after the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) fully approves the COVID-19 vaccine for each grade span (K-6 and 7-12). There will be a personal belief and medical exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. This announcement comes after a handful of California school districts announced mandatory vaccine requirements for their students.
Governor Newsom directed the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) to follow the procedures set forth under the Health and Safety Code section 120335 to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required for in-person instruction. Once the FDA fully approves the vaccine for each grade span, the CDPH is required to take into consideration recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States, the Department of Health and Human services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, prior to adding the vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend in-person instruction.
The grade spans are broken down into two groups: students in grades Kindergarten through 6 (ages 5-11), and students in grades 7 through 12 (ages 12+). As far as a timeline for the commencement of the vaccine requirement, Governor Newsom stated that all K-12 students attending school in-person will be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine for the academic term (January 1 or July 1, whichever comes first) following full FDA approval of the vaccine for that grade span.
Per the announcement issued by Governor Newsom’s office, the requirement to be vaccinated is anticipated to apply to students in grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022. With respect to the K-6 grade span, Pfizer Inc. just requested that the FDA authorize the Emergency Use of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group. The FDA will hold a public hearing on October 26 to discuss this request.
It is important to note that unlike current school vaccine requirements under Health and Safety Code section 120335, unless added by the Legislature to the list of required vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will have a personal belief exemption, in addition to a medical exemption. Additionally, students who do not attend school in-person, such as students who are homeschooled or participate in independent study, will not be subject to the vaccination requirement.
We will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 K-12 vaccine requirement and will provide further updates when available. Should questions or issues arise relating to the COVID-19 K-12 vaccine requirement, or immunizations requirements as related to schools, we recommend that you contact your legal counsel. This article provides general information only does not provide legal advice.
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