October 05, 2021
Last week, California became the first state to announce it would require COVID-19 vaccinations for students. Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday said that California would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines for school-aged children after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval of the vaccine for those age groups. This is being done via existing statutory authority that allows the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to add to the list of diseases for which vaccination is required for school enrollment. The statute specifies that any vaccination requirements added administratively, rather than legislatively, are subject to both medical and personal belief exemptions.
Gov. Newsom clarified during a press conference that the requirement will start in the term following full FDA approval–either January 1 or July 1—for the relevant grade spans (K-6 and 7-12). Currently, full FDA approval has only been granted for ages 16 and up.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will consider relevant recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians prior to implementing the requirement. It will then initiate the regulatory process, which will allow for public comment. The regulations will articulate the details of implementation, including the scope of exemptions.
The state estimates, based on current projections for full approval of a vaccine for ages 12+, that the requirement would apply to grades 7-12 starting July 1, 2022. Governor Newsom also encouraged local public health and school officials to move forward with their own vaccine requirements.
"CMA strongly supports Gov. Newsom’s common-sense action to protect our students, teachers and school staff. This is not a new idea. We already require vaccines against several known deadly diseases before students can enroll in schools,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “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. We are proud that California continues to put public health first, and urge all who are eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible so we can keep each other safe."