The Governor of California Gavin Newsom has announced that all elementary through high school students in the US state will be required to have COVID-19 vaccinations to attend in-person classes. California is the first US state to have this requirement.
The Governor’s order has simply added COVID-19 to the list of diseases children need to be immunized against, such as measles and mumps, to attend school. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for anyone over the age of 16 and is under the Emergency Use Authorization remit for those between 12 and 15.
Pfizer and BioNTech, makers of Comirnaty, have recently presented data to the FDA on how well-tolerated and effective the vaccine is in children aged 5 to 11. The requirement will only be enforced once full authorization by the FDA is given. For those in grade seven and up, it is expected to be from July 2022.
“We want to end this pandemic, we are all exhausted by it,” Newsom said during a news conference at a San Francisco middle school shared on Twitter.
Several school districts in California, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District have already voted that by early next year they would require all eligible students to be fully vaccinated.
Students that can’t get the vaccine should request a medical or religious exemption.
The move is expected to be followed by other states and other school districts in an attempt to get the number of pediatric cases of COVID-19 under control. Since July, they have risen by about 240 percent in the US. Hundreds of thousands of children contracted COVID-19 during the summer and there are severe concerns that the number will continue to increase.
Despite children being on average less at risk from the most serious and deadly consequences of the disease, the spread through classrooms puts vulnerable people at risk and increases the chance of a new vaccine-resistant variant emerging. This could be a huge setback in the global fight to keep the pandemic under control.
As of today, the United States has seen almost 43,695,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Over 700,000 people have died due to the disease. Los Angeles is the leading county in the US for both cases and deaths with over 1,463,000 cases and over 26,000 deaths.