The San Diego Unified School District is moving forward with its plan for a vaccine mandate despite the state’s decision to delay its mandate for schoolchildren until at least next summer.
Students aged 16 and older will be required to get the COVID vaccine as planned, beginning this summer. Board trustee Richard Barrera said this age group is the only age group with full FDA approval to get the COVID vaccine.
“We do follow the process for full FDA approval, so for our students 16 and older, our vaccination requirement will go into effect beginning next school year," he said.
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Barrera said about 80% of this age group has been vaccinated so far. The mandate takes effect in July for summer school, and Barrera hopes by the time regular school starts the number of students vaccinated will increase.
“In order to attend in-person they must be vaccinated. If not, they'll enroll in the online program Virtual Academy, Barrera said. Those in sports and extra-curricular activities will not be able to participate, though he noted more than 90% of student-athletes are vaccinated.
One of the reasons the state delayed its mandate was to give districts time to accommodate unvaccinated students who need virtual learning, but Barrera said San Diego Unified is ready. The second reason is that there is not yet full FDA approval for other age groups.
“The governor's not saying we’re never going to mandate vaccines. He’s, for implementation purposes, moving it to 2023,” said Barrera.
Barrera said not only is the district moving forward, despite the state's delay, but also despite pending lawsuits.
“Courts have not blocked us from proceeding. The case is not settled either at the state or federal level, so that is yet to come Right now, we have the ability to move forward legally with the mandate.” Barrera said.
Barrera said the district would mandate vaccines for students 12 and over if the FDA gives full approval by the spring semester.