California will not require K-12 students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 until at least 2023, state public health officials said this week.
The California Department of Public Health said in a statement Thursday that COVID vaccines will not be required for students until at least July 1, 2023, provided that they are fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for children under age 16 before then.
To date, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been fully approved for people ages 16 and up while the Moderna vaccine has been fully approved for adults. Children ages 5-16 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine under the federal government’s emergency use authorization.
CDPH officials said they would wait until at least the 2023-2024 school year to give schools enough time for “successful implementation” of the vaccination requirement.
“California is making informed decisions on how to further protect students and staff, to keep children safely in classrooms,” CDPH Director and state Public Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October that the state would add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of vaccines required to attend school — like those for measles, polio and chicken pox — for the term following the FDA’s full approval, as soon as Jan. 1 of this year.
The requirement would first apply to students age 12 and older in grades seven through 12, Newsom said at that time, and would at a later date apply to the remaining students under age 12.
Newsom also said the requirement will have standard exemptions for children who cannot get vaccinated due to religious or medical reasons.
As of Friday, just 34.2 percent of the state’s children ages 5-11 had been fully vaccinated, according to state public health data, while two-thirds of kids ages 12-17 have completed their initial vaccine series.
With the school vaccination requirement shelved for at least 15 months, the CDPH announced Friday that it will make $10 million in grants available to health care providers to extend their operating hours in an effort to make it easier for families to get vaccinated.
The funding will be available to providers in the state’s Vaccines for Children program and will provide up to $25,000 per vaccination site.
“Vaccines are the most powerful tool we have to protect our children and our communities from the dangers of COVID-19,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement.
Statewide, 75.1 percent of all residents age 5 and up have completed their initial vaccination series and an additional 9 percent have received at least one vaccine dose, according to CDPH data.
In addition, 58.2 percent of people age 12 and up who are eligible for a booster vaccine dose have received one.