San Diego

SDUSD Approves Vaccine Mandate For Students and Staff

The district's mandate allows for medical exemptions, but not religious ones

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What to Know

  • The San Diego Unified School District board has approved a COVID-19 mandate for all eligible employees and students.
  • By Dec. 20, 2021: SDUSD employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, either with two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or with the one-dose J&J vaccine.
  • For SDUSD students, the mandate will roll out in three stages; the first stage involves students 16+, who must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20, 2021, to partake in in-person learning or extracurricular activities. If they're not vaccinated, they can enroll in SDUSD's virtual learning program.

Following more than an hour of public comment, the San Diego Unified School District board approved a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all eligible employees and students with a unanimous vote Tuesday.

Employees will be required to have received one Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of Moderna or Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 20, 2021. The mandate would “be a condition of employment and a requirement for contracted services.”

As for students, the district’s suggested phased approach would be as followed:

  • Stage 1: Students age 16 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20 to participate in in-person learning and extracurricular activities. Otherwise, they can enroll to learn virtually;
  • Stage 2: Students age 12 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated at an undetermined date, depending on the FDA’s full approval;
  • Stage 3: Students age 5 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated at an undetermined date, depending on the FDA’s full approval.

Barrera said students taking the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer shots would need to get their first dose by Thanksgiving to ensure their timeline lines up with the deadlines set by the district.

If the board approves the mandate on Tuesday, all eligible students, staff and contractors will be required to be fully vaccinated on or before Dec. 20. NBC 7's Allie Raffa reports.

The district said it proposed the vaccine mandate to “ensure the highest-quality instruction in the safest environment possible for all students and employees,” it said in a slideshow on the matter. The mandate allows for medical exemptions, but not religious ones.

On Wednesday, the school board gathered with some of their medical advisors to explain the reasoning behind their unanimous vote.

“Until we take all necessary measures to get this virus under control, we will keep seeing this up and down roller coaster situation,” SDUSD Board President Richard Barrera said. “So, if we have people at our schools that are not vaccinated and are eligible to be vaccinated, we know the result of that is we will see more positive cases, we will see students being sent home, we will see staff being sent home.”

SDUSD student board member Zachary Patterson said his decision was made as a student, a board member and as an immunocompromised individual who takes a shot once a week to lower his immune response.

"If you wanted to live completely off the grid and not be connected, that’s one thing. But since we do live in a society where we live together, work together, go to school together, that means that we have to stand up for each other and stick up," Patterson said. "And, I hope that the students are going to do that. Stick up for me. Stick up for immunocompromised people and get out there and get vaccinated.”

NBC 7's Dave Summers reports from district headquarters where protestors and supporters showed up to voice their opinions on a proposed vaccine mandate for students.

However, not everyone is happy about the possibility of a mandate.

The district board was set to allow 20 minutes of public comment, with 10 minutes reserved for those in favor of the mandate and 10 more for speakers who opposed. Board president Richard Barrera extended the allotted time to an hour, giving both sides 30 minutes to speak.

Speaker Brenda Taylor said she was speaking up for other unvaccinated people who were afraid of retaliation, and argued the mandate failed to account for "the latest observations."

Another parent named Kimberly praised the board for proposing the mandate.

"A mandate would protect those that are most vulnerable, such as my child. It would give coverage to all children that are too young to receive a vaccine," she said.

About an hour before the 5 p.m. meeting was set to begin virtually, two groups made up of dozens of people for and against the mandate gathered outside the board offices to voice their opinions.

Dozens of police officers were also there, keeping the two groups separated.

In a dramatic overruling, the CDC's top official approved the recommendation of booster shots for Americans who have already received 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. NBC News medical contributor Dr. Kavita Patel says her practice is ready to administer a 3rd shot to those who want it - between 6 to 9 months after receiving their 2nd dose.

A group of San Diegans against the proposal who call themselves “Let Them Choose” has been vocal about their concerns and opposition to the mandate.

"The responsible thing to do is to see long-term studies on this, to not be seeing recalls, to not be seeing side effects," one anti-mandate parent said. "There are some parents -- even if they saw those long-term studies, they wouldn't feel good about giving their kids the COVID-19 vaccine."

Last week, the group sent a legal demand letter to the district opposing the vaccine mandate. In it, they said that if the mandate were to pass, they would take legal action against the district. Take a look below for details.

"We finally have a chance to turn the corner on COVID, to get out kids back to their regular lives, and it's incredibly frustrating that people being fed misinformation and being poorly educated on the facts are trying to disrupt our progress," a parent in favor of the mandate said.

To parents that are still concerned “We say, we want to talk to you,” Barrera said following the vote. “So if you have concerns, especially about the vaccine, we want to have those individual conversations.”

“We need to be able to have those individual conversations because the right decision for any parent is to go ahead and get your student vaccinated, if they’re eligible, rather than to keep your kids out of school. That is not the decision that we’re looking for and that is not our goal in this process.”

COVID-19 Vaccinations for Kids in San Diego County: By the Numbers, So Far

According to San Diego County’s COVID-19 Vaccinations Report (with data through Sept. 21), here is how the coronavirus vaccination progress currently breaks down for eligible San Diego residents ages 12 to 17:

  • There are 239,401 San Diegans who are 12 to 17 years old
  • Of that population, 169,633 have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine as of Sept. 21, 2021
  • The county says this means 70.9% of the eligible 12-17 population in San Diego County is partially vaccinated against the coronavirus
  • That vaccination rate breaks down to 708.6 vaccinated kids per 1,000 kids in the 12 to 17 age group

More on the geographical and ethnic stats of vaccines for kids in San Diego County can be found here.

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