SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Children in California will not have to get a coronavirus vaccine to attend schools, state public health officials confirmed Friday, one of the last major restrictions imposed by the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state. terminated.
Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the policy in 2021, saying it would eventually apply to all of California’s 6.7 million public and private school children.
But since then, the crisis caused by a mysterious virus first reported in late 2019 has mostly faded from the public consciousness. COVID-19 is still widespread, but the availability of several vaccines has lessened the effects of the virus for many people – providing relief to an overwhelmed public health system.
Nearly all pandemic restrictions imposed by Newsom have been lifted, and he will not be able to issue any new ones after February 28, when the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration officially expires.
One of the last remaining questions was what would happen to the state’s vaccine mandate for school children, a policy that came from the California Department of Public Health and was not affected by the removal of the emergency declaration.
On Friday, the Department of Public Health confirmed it was backing away from its original plan.
In a statement, the department said, “CDPH is not currently exploring emergency rulemaking to add COVID-19 to the list of required school vaccinations, but we will continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff to keep everyone safe in the classroom.” continue to strongly recommend the -19 vaccination.” , “Any changes to required K-12 vaccinations are properly addressed through the legislative process.”
The announcement was welcome news for Jonathan Zatcherson, a father of three who lives in Roseville. Zachreson founded the group Reopen California Schools to protest many of the state’s coronavirus policies. Her activism led to her being elected to the Roseville City School District Board in November.
“This is long overdue. … A lot of families are under stress from this decision and have been worried about it for quite some time,” he said. “I wish that the CDPH would make a big statement publicly or Newsom would make a public statement … to let the families and the school districts know that this is not going to be an issue for them anymore.”
Representatives for Newsom did not respond to an email requesting comment.
California has had great influence on the country’s pandemic policies. It was the first state to issue a statewide stay-at-home order — and other states have been quick to follow.
But most states haven’t followed California’s lead when it comes to vaccine mandates for public schools. Officials in Louisiana announced a similar mandate, but later backtracked. District of Columbia schools to require COVID-19 vaccine starting in fall.
Republican US Rep. Kevin Kelly, a former member of the state assembly who challenged Newsom in an unsuccessful recall effort over his pandemic policies in 2021, published a blog post declaring: “We won. To Gavin Newsom: You lost.”
Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist representing most of the state’s school districts, said he did not think the policy change was the result of political pressure by Republicans, but rather a reflection of the slow transmission rate of the virus.
“The public appetite for this kind of mandate is certainly not what it used to be,” he said. “If you start implementing heavy mandates now, when the amount of transmission is significantly lower than statewide, then a one-size-fits-all solution just doesn’t work.”