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California will require Covid vaccination for K-12 students attending school in person after full FDA approval


California will require students attending school in person to get vaccinated for Covid-19 after the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval for their age group, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

Newsom’s latest order, the first of its kind nationwide, will roll out in two phases for students learning in person. The mandate will first take effect for students ages 12 and over after the FDA grants full approval to that entire age group.

Pfizer’s Covid vaccine is currently authorized only on an emergency use basis for children ages 12 to 15. The FDA approved the vaccine for kids ages 16 and 17 in August.

Newsom said California will apply the mandate for students ages 12 and up as early as Jan. 1 but possibly as late as July 1 depending on when FDA authorization takes place.

Anti-vaccine protesters stage a protest outside of the San Diego Unified School District office to protest a forced vaccination mandate for students on September 28, 2021 in San Diego, California.

Sandy Huffaker | Getty Images

California will then apply the vaccine mandate for students under 12 in a second phase after full FDA authorization takes place for that age group. Pfizer submitted initial trial data to the FDA on children ages 5 to 11 last month and said it would request emergency use authorization in the coming weeks.

The FDA has scheduled a meeting on Oct. 26 to review Pfizer’s application to give shots to that age group, making it possible to start administering Covid vaccines to 5- to 11-year-olds by Halloween or shortly thereafter.

“Currently, we have in the state of California administered at least one dose to 63.5% of all of our young cohort ages 12 to 17,” Newsom said at a press conference. “But we have to do more — 84% of all eligible received one dose, but for 12 to 17, we’re not where we need to be.”

California reported more than 6 million public school students as of April, according to its Department of Education.

Newsom issued a weekly testing mandate for all unvaccinated school staff on Aug. 11. The governor added that he was awaiting further guidance from the Biden administration before enacting a vaccine mandate for all school staff to correspond with the upcoming rollout for students.

Similar testing mandates for California’s employees and health-care workers who refuse to immunize also took effect in early August.

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