thejapannews– California announced on Friday that it will soon be the first U.S. state to require COVID-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren.
The mandate will not apply to all children, until the U.S. government approves the vaccine for the 12 to 15 and 5 to 11 age groups, California Governor Gavin Newsom said.
California law requires all children enrolled in public and private schools to have 10 immunizations, with exceptions made for medical reasons.
The details of COVID-19 vaccine exemptions for medical, religious and personal reasons will be finalized after the state receives public feedback, while students without exemptions, but who refuse to get vaccinated, must undergo independent home schooling.
The mandate will affect more than 6.7 million public and private school students in California, which already has a face mask mandate.
“We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it.” Newsom said during a news conference at a San Francisco middle school.
With 84 percent of the population aged 12 and older receiving at least one vaccine dose and 70 percent being fully vaccinated, California has one of the highest vaccination rates in the U.S., but it also has a vocal minority who are skeptical of both the vaccine and the government’s reassurances.
“I just think it is a parent’s decision. Period,” said Fabio Zamora, father of a student at Edna Brewer Middle School, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020, which was soon followed by 41 other states. He has also required some 2.2 million health care workers and most state employees to become vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.
The vaccine mandate will also apply to K-12 public and private school teachers and staff, who must either be already vaccinated or perform weekly testing.
Newsom’s announcement comes as COVID-19 infections in California dropped significantly, with the average number of daily cases being 6,355, about half of the figure during the peak of the latest surge in mid-August. Hospitalizations have also decreased by 40%.