By Dr. Dali Fan of UC Davis Health
Governor Gavin Newsom is directing the California Department of Public Health to add the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance—such as measles, mumps, and rubella. Students will be required to be vaccinated for in-person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span (7-12 and k-6). Here’s what you need to know about the new vaccine requirement, as answered by Dr. Dali Fan of UC Davis Health:
Q: When will children under 12 years old be able to get the vaccine?
A: California continues to monitor the federal process for expanding vaccine eligibility to children under age 12. CDPH has been planning for expanded eligibility and is working with our partners and California’s pediatric health providers to prepare for administering these additional vaccines pending review and approval from our federal partners and the Western States Scientific Safety.
Q: Should parents be worried about long term side effects?
A: The vaccine is proven safe and effective and currently available for children 12+. Side effects are typically mild and normal after receiving a vaccination. Even though children generally have lower rates of COVID-19 and spread the virus less than adults, it is possible for children to become seriously ill from the coronavirus. So, it’s important to make sure eligible children get vaccinated to significantly reduce their risk of becoming sick or spreading the virus to someone else, including younger children in the home.
Q: What is the new state requirement?
A: Children must be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend schools in person, starting the school term after the vaccines have full approval from the FDA for two different groups. The requirement will be phased in by grade span, first grades 7-12 and then K-6. School staff will also need to be vaccinated by the time the requirement applies to the first cohort.
Q: What’s the deadline for getting children vaccinated?
A: The requirement will take effect at the start of the following term, meaning either January 1st or July 1st, whichever comes first. This will also give both parents and schools sufficient time to prepare and implement. Based on current projections for full approval for ages 12+, we anticipate the requirement would apply to grades 7-12 starting on July 1, 2022.
Q: Aren’t teachers and administrators already required to be vaccinated?
A: Right now, they have the option to be tested for the virus regularly if they are not vaccinated, but that option will disappear once the FDA gives final approval for that first student cohort.
Q: What if my child isn’t old enough to be vaccinated?
A: The requirement will only apply to children eligible to be vaccinated. No vaccines have been approved yet for children younger than 12, but that could happen later this year or early next year.
Q: What other vaccines are required for California school kids?
A: Vaccine requirements to attend school are not unusual. California already requires kids to have immunizations for polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP), measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B and varicella (chickenpox).
Q: Are there any exceptions?
A: Yes, there will be exceptions for medical reasons and personal and religious beliefs. Students who are not vaccinated will be permitted to enroll in independent study, but they will not be allowed to attend class in person.
Q: There are still concerns from some in the Chinese community about getting the vaccine and its safety. What would you tell those who still aren’t vaccinated?
A: Please get vaccinated. We know the vaccines are overwhelmingly safe thanks to the rigorous safety trials that included people of different genders, ethnicities, ages and pre-existing conditions as well as the ongoing efforts to monitor safety as millions of people receive the vaccine.
Unvaccinated people were 8.1 times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people between September 12 and September 18, 2021. The COVID-19 vaccines offer a high degree of protection against severe disease, hospitalizations, and death, including against the highly contagious Delta variant. Don’t take a chance with your life. Get vaccinated.
Q: Where can families get more information about the vaccine and to make an appointment?