COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school children


Varun Singh, News Editor

On Friday, October 1st,  2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all children in order to attend in-person school, private or public. Exemptions would be made for students who choose not to be vaccinated for medical or religious and personal reasons. However, a student who refuses to be vaccinated without a valid exemption will be required to do remote learning.

 The statement received both praise and lamentation from California parents. Those against the new mandate believe that they should have the final say on if their child is vaccinated, not the governor. To them, the new policy is nothing more than a play of politics. Such frustration was caught on camera when one group of Beverly Hills anti-vaxxers adamantly voiced their opinion to vaccinated and masked parents dropping off their children at school. Signs included “Forced vaccination is illegal” and “Stop Medical Tyranny.” Beverly Hills mayor Robert Wunderlich stepped in to quell the situation.

Those in support of the governor see the vaccination mandate as a step necessary to ceasing the spread COVID-19. They believe that since schools already require vaccinations for the flu and HPV, there’s no harm in adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list. Additionally, California currently has the lowest COVID-case rate in the country; evidence, to many, that the state is doing something right.

On October 29th, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5-11, now expanding the eligible age group for student vaccinations. After the FDA approves the vaccine for widespread use in this age range, students iwill have until the end of the following semester to receive both of their vaccinations for the next school year. For seventh through twelfth graders this mandate is predicted to be implemented in July of next year. For kindergarten to sixth graders though, the deadline would be later since the vaccine for their age group has been fully approved.

Most California teacher’s unions support Newsom’s decision. Amid fears of showing up to work and exposing oneself to COVID-10, the mandate provides school staff a sense of security. However, there is also a minority of teachers that are opposed to vaccination requirements for both students and school staff. As of October 15th, to keep their jobs, teachers and staff must either become vaccinated or agree to weekly Covid testing. But, some of these employees allege that such testing violates the Equal Protections Clause of the Constitution; to them testing discriminates against staff based upon their personal health choices by requiring only non-vaccinated individuals to go through it.

Other sectors are also pushing back on Newsom’s strict COVID-19 policies; iconic California burger-chain, In-n-Out, has refused to enforce COVID-19 vaccination checks on its customers. Chief Business Officer Arnie Wensinger released a statement announcing that the company “refuse[d] to be the vaccination police” and they considered vaccination checks“intrusive, improper, and offensive.” While In-n-Out has always been a staple of the California lifestyle, it’s unclear how customers will react to these latest statements. 

Influential figures on both sides have weighed in on the vaccination debate: In a subtle show of support, Mike Pence stopped by In-n-Out for a burger hours after the company released its statement refusing vaccination checks. In a press conference earlier this year, Pope Francis expressed his confusion as to why so many people, including the Roman Catholic hierarchy, refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He cited previous vaccinations against measles and polio, and how now one complained then. What was the problem now? It seems like everywhere you go, the divisiveness of COVID-19 is present; one can’t even go to their favorite burger joint without being reminded of it.

The student vaccine mandate will likely be implemented in California and it’s likely other states will follow with similar mandates. States tend to mimick each other’s policies, especially when it comes to issues people are passionate about; just look at Texas’ latest abortion ban policy and how quick Florida was to propose its own version. 

Photo credit: Getty Images