Los Angeles Schools Mandate Vaccines for 630,000 Students – Daily Local

By AMY TAXIN and JOHN ANTCZAK

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Students 12 and older in the Los Angeles school system must be vaccinated before returning to classrooms next year, under one of the toughest anti-COVID mandates in the country.

The board of directors of the Los Angeles Unified School District on Thursday voted to vaccinate all 630,000 or so students – those who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities by the end of October and everyone else by December 19.

Students who cannot provide proof of vaccination will no longer be allowed to study in person after the end of the winter break on January 11th. You must work remotely as part of the LAUSD independent study program.

Around 80,000 students are not yet fully vaccinated, according to district officials.

“This action is not about violating anyone’s rights,” said school board member Monica Garcia. “This campaign is about doing our job of offering public schools that children come to school and are safe.”

The second largest school district in the country will be the largest and the few to give such a mandate. The nearby town of Culver City introduced a similar policy for its 7,000 students last month.

New York City’s school system, the largest in the nation, has only mandated vaccinations for 20,000 student athletes in certain sports that are at high risk of spreading the virus, including wrestling.

Los Angeles has been more aggressive than most counties in implementing COVID-19 security measures. It tests all students and employees every week, requires masking both indoors and outdoors, and ordered employees to be vaccinated.

LAUSD was one of the last of the country’s largest counties to reopen for classes last spring. The teachers’ union refused to move for months, citing health concerns.

The union applauded the mandate it sought after teachers were ordered to get the shots.

“COVID-19 mutates, is transmitted to our students, and vaccines remain our community’s best line of defense to prevent the further spread of disease,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Almost three-quarters of the district’s student population is Latino and many are poor. Among adults, poor Latinos are vaccinated at a lower rate than the national average.

From mid-July to mid-August, the number of coronavirus cases among children in Los Angeles county rose, but has since declined, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s health department.

Between August 15 and September 7, nearly 8,000 student cases and more than 1,200 employee cases of coronavirus were reported in the county, most of them in Los Angeles Unified, Ferrer said.

The coronavirus was far less deadly to children than it was to older adults, but they can pass the virus on to others, health officials say.

More than half of the county’s residents between the ages of 12 and 17 are already fully vaccinated, and “increasing these numbers is a critical part of our strategy to keep schools open,” Ferrer said.

The school district’s mandate could inspire similar action in other cities and likely spark legal challenges from those who oppose vaccination, masking, and other COVID-19 regulations.

Some parents spoke out against the mandate at the LAUSD board meeting, arguing that they should decide what is best for their children.

“We don’t understand why you’re in such a rush,” said Diana Guillen, chairman of the district’s English Learner Advisory Committee, speaking to the board in Spanish. “That decision should be ours, a family decision.”

But many parents and school administrators overwhelmingly supported the plan, calling it a solid public health measure and a crucial step in keeping classrooms open to the personal learning that is so important to students.

Board member Jackie Goldberg recalled when polio ripped through her school and her third grade boyfriend lost his arm.

“It’s our moral, ethical, religious, political – choose a word – it’s our responsibility to protect the children under 12 who cannot be protected in any other way,” she said.

Only Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine has received full federal approval for use by anyone ages 16 and older, while children ages 12-15 can be vaccinated under a state emergency permit.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden urged people to vaccinate their children.

“Almost all of the severe COVID-19 cases we see in teenagers are unvaccinated 12 to 17 year olds – an age group that is lagging behind in vaccination rates,” he said.

A survey by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in August found that 55% of adults polled were in favor of a vaccination mandate for students 12 years and older, although that number fell to 42% among parents.

Some parents seek to ensure that all eligible students are vaccinated. Lucy Rimalower, who has a kindergarten in the district, said she was relieved that officials are taking steps to protect her son until he is old enough to have his shot, and that also helps keep her parents safe, who are in their 60s and 70s and help her with childcare.

“This feels like, over time, following the precedent of all other vaccines that have helped us create a safer school environment that makes us feel like it’s safe to send our children to school without Get chickenpox, polio, mumps, measles, rubella. “You name it,” she said.

___

Taxin reported from Orange County, California. Associate press writer Jeff Amy in Atlanta contributed to this.

Comments are closed.