California Student COVID Immunization Mandate: New Safety Rules

California is again at the forefront of vaccine mandates, demanding that all eligible public and private school children be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The mandate could come into effect for students between grades 7 to 12 as early as January if full federal approval for a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 has been obtained by then personally without vaccination or a special permit.

But unlike other vaccination requirements for school children in California, the governor said parents can quote their personal beliefs if they refuse to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 and are still allowed to send their children to class.

The release from personal belief must be granted because the new compulsory vaccination will be imposed through a regulatory process rather than the legislature, officials said. State lawmakers may later decide to lift the personal belief exception for the COVID-19 vaccine if they so choose.

Public health officials said the vaccine was perfectly safe for children and that vaccination would help bring regions closer to herd immunity.

Here’s a breakdown of what we know:

How long has the COVID-19 vaccine been available for children?

The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use for anyone aged 16 and over in December and was generally available in the spring.

Full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration was granted to people aged 16 and over at the end of August.

The Pfizer shot was approved for emergency use in teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15 in May. Full approval for this age group is widely expected by November.

Vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 are not yet available. Pfizer is expected to file for approval shortly, citing evidence from studies suggesting the shots are safe and effective for children in this area. According to the Associated Press, the footage for this group could be available around Thanksgiving as part of an emergency permit. However, full approval for this age group would likely take many more months, which means that elementary school children may not be vaccinated until next summer or later.

What is the safety record of the Pfizer vaccine?

Experts call the Pfizer vaccine safe and effective for children.

Since December, 226 million vaccinations of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine have been administered to all age groups in the US, an amazing mass vaccination in a short time that is unparalleled in US history.

During this period, 54% of adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age received at least one dose of vaccine, as did 62% of 16 and 17-year-olds. If there was a safety issue with the adolescent vaccine, it would likely have surfaced by now, experts say.

What about reports of heart inflammation as a side effect from Pfizer?

There were some early concerns about myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – as a side effect after administration of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, mainly in young men after a second dose.

However, another study found that the 8.9 million teenagers in the United States, ages 12-17 who received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine by mid-July, had rare cases of myocarditis. There were fewer than 400 reports of myocarditis, symptoms were generally mild, and there were no related reports of death.

Even if myocarditis developed after vaccination, symptoms would usually be resolved with aspirin or another popular anti-inflammatory drug, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco. After checking the dates, she let her 13-year-old son get his second dose and he was fine, she said.

The most common pediatric adverse events reported to officials were dizziness, headache, and fainting, some of which were likely related to a history of needling fear, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection. According to the CDC, adolescents often pass out after each vaccination.

Why are children vaccinated when hospitalization rates in this group are so low?

Indeed, children have low hospitalization and death rates from COVID-19.

Still, “the risk is not zero,” said UCLA medical epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Robert Kim-Farley. In the United States, more than 600 children under the age of 18 have died from COVID-19. Almost 300 of them were between 12 and 17 years old.

“This vaccine is safe and effective and prevents unnecessary suffering, disability and death in children. Every child death is to be regretted, ”said Kim-Farley.

Children exposed to the coronavirus are also at risk of developing a rare but serious condition known as Children’s Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C. The condition can cause inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs and is potentially fatal.

Nationally, there have been more than 4,600 cases of MIS-C and 41 related deaths.

What is the danger to others if adolescents are not vaccinated?

Failure to vaccinate teens will only prolong the pandemic and put other people at risk, epidemiologists say. In Los Angeles County, unvaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 17 have the highest coronavirus case rate in the past month – 19% worse than unvaccinated adults under 50 and 33% worse than unvaccinated older adults.

However, it is the older adults who pay the price when the coronavirus is circulating at high levels in a community. For example, fully vaccinated grandparents are at greater risk of exposure to the virus, which in turn puts them at greater risk of serious illness if they get a breakthrough infection from an unvaccinated grandchild.

“The delta variant is really so much more transmissible, unlike the alpha variant, that children absolutely get it … and they transmit it,” said Gandhi. “If you have all this virus around you, you will still have breakthroughs. And who will be prone to a major breakthrough? Older people. “

Does the government have the power to require vaccinations for school children?

Yes, state governments have long required vaccinations to be a condition of access to classrooms.

Vaccinations in California required for K-12 education include polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

What did the courts say about the regulatory requirements for vaccinations?

The courts have already upheld laws that made vaccination compulsory: in 1905, the US Supreme Court upheld state laws that require vaccination against communicable diseases. The case stemmed from a Massachusetts law that allowed city health officials to enforce mandatory, free vaccination requirements for adults over the age of 21.

In a 7-2 ruling, Judge John Marshall Harlan wrote that “the rights of the individual … sometimes, under the pressures of great peril, may be subjected to such restrictions as enforced by appropriate regulations such as the safety of the general.” the public can demand. “

What Determines How Soon the New COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Could Go into Effect?

The mandate would go into effect for grades 7 through 12 once the semester comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the vaccine for children ages 12 and up, Newsom said, which is likely as early as January 2022 or maybe so will take place late in summer 2022.

Students in kindergarten through sixth grade would be graded in the semester following the formal approval of the vaccine for younger children.

Although the Pfizer vaccine is already fully approved for anyone aged 16 and over, Newsom’s plan does not include vaccinations for 16- and 17-year-old high school students until vaccinations are fully approved for those ages 12-15.

Even after the FDA fully approves the adolescent and teen vaccine, the California Department of Health will need to initiate regulatory process that will regulate further details, including the scope of the exemptions, and Californians will be able to provide a formal public comment.

When do teachers have to be vaccinated?

As soon as students need to be vaccinated, the same rules apply to workers. Currently, K-12 teachers and staff in California schools – public or private – must either be vaccinated or undergo a weekly coronavirus test.

Will lawmakers deny parents the opportunity to quote personal beliefs when exempting their child from the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is possible. A spokesman for State Senator Scott Weiner, who appeared with the governor on Friday, said the San Francisco Democrat supported the abolition of the personal belief exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students.

Newsom declined to directly ask state lawmakers to lift the personal belief exception for the COVID-19 vaccine. He said he would work with state lawmakers “to find out what is best in terms of achieving our common goals to ensure the health and safety of people” and the students in the classroom.

Are “Exceptions to Personal Beliefs” allowed for other routine vaccinations required for school?

No, California only allows medical exemptions for other long-standing routine vaccines, such as measles, that are required for school children in K-12 schools who are taught in the classroom.

In 2016, California ended the practice of allowing parents of school children to request a vaccination waiver based on family beliefs.

Schools do not need to be vaccinated if they are attending a private school at home or are studying through independent study and are not receiving classroom instruction.

Why has California discontinued the practice of “exceptions to personal beliefs” for other routine vaccinations for school children?

A measles outbreak in Disneyland in late 2014 and early 2015 spread to seven other states plus Canada and Mexico, highlighting the risks of declining vaccination rates among children in California.

Immunization rates had declined due to the spread of myths that vaccines were unsafe, the result of misinformation officials said was public health.

At the time of the strict Vaccination Act of 2015, two-thirds of California adults who responded to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California said unvaccinated children shouldn’t go to public school. The feelings were strong on both sides. Parents who defied the law took part in large, passionate protests.

The state’s decision resulted in a major vaccination surge. In 2016, the vaccination rate of California kindergarten children skyrocketed compared to the previous year, resulting in the highest vaccination rate among kindergarten children since at least 1998.

The Times writer, Maura Dolan, contributed to this report.

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