Los Angeles schools to mandate COVID vaccines for students over 12

Student at Rio San Gabriel Elementary return to school on August 31, 2021. Downey Unified School District is one of many school districts returning to in-person learning in Los Angeles County. (Mayra Beltran Vasquez / Los Angeles County)

STUDENTS aged 12 years and older in the United States’ second-largest school district will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can attend in-person classes next year.

In a special meeting held Thursday, September 9, the Los Angeles Unified School Board voted unanimously to mandate vaccinations before the end of the year in response to the surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.

The LAUSD became the first major school district in the country to impose such a directive.

“In order to reduce transmission and ensure students can remain on campus in the safest possible environment and receive the best education possible, Los Angeles Unified is now requiring all students who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination to be fully vaccinated by Monday, January 10, 2022,” the LAUSD said on its website.

The LAUSD, which has more than 1,000 schools serving more than 600,000 students, already tests all students and employees every week. It also requires masking indoors and outdoors and has ordered employees to be vaccinated.

Under its new mandate, students 12 years of age and older are required to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by no later than November 21, and to be fully vaccinated by December 19.

Meanwhile, students who participate in in-person extracurricular activities, including sports, must receive their first vaccine dose no later than October 3 and their second dose no later than October 31.

“All other students must receive their first vaccine dose by no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday, and their second dose by no later than 8 weeks after their 12th birthday,” the LAUSD said.

Proof of vaccination needs to be uploaded and approved in the district’s Daily Pass program by January 10, 2022, one day before students return to class.

Only those with “qualified and approved exemptions” won’t be required to get vaccinated. Otherwise, those who are not vaccinated by the deadline will not be allowed on campus.

For her part, Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly maintained that the mandated shots were the next logical step to protect children, staff, and community members against the pandemic.

“We’ve always approached safety with a multilayered approach: masks, air filtration and coronavirus screening,” Reilly told the Los Angeles Times.

“But we are seeing without a doubt that the vaccines are one of the clearest pathways to protecting individuals from getting severe sickness as well as for mitigating transmission of the COVID virus. It is one of the best preventive measures that we have at our disposal to create a safe environment at schools,” she added.

According to the district, roughly 80,000 students have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is our moral, ethical, religious, political — pick a word — it’s our responsibility to protect the children under 12 who cannot get protected any other way,” said Board member Jackie Goldberg.

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine in the United States authorized for emergency use for children between 12 and 15. n

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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