(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Coronavirus Coverage

Opinion: California needs safer schools as COVID-19 vaccine mandates tighten

To achieve a safe in-person education, California needs a vaccine mandate for all public school students and employees.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/mollyjenkins1/" target="_self">Molly Jenkins</a>

Molly Jenkins

December 2, 2021
Over the past months, over 400 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States. According to the New York Times, 70% of Americans have been partially vaccinated and 59% have been fully vaccinated.  

With the surge of distributed vaccines and more than half of the population being vaccinated, each respective state has grappled differently with the idea of a vaccine mandate for students and teachers within the public school system. 

A prominent state in question is California, which was the first state to announce that it was necessary for all K-12 employees to receive the vaccine. Earlier in October, it was declared that when eligible, all students must be vaccinated upon the Food and Drug Administration’s approval. Children ages 5 and up are authorized to receive the Pfizer vaccine. 

Many districts including San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles were some of the firsts to require their older student bodies to get the vaccine. These school districts have said that they have an “obligation” to protect their students by increasing the vaccine rates by winter.

The state has created a strict rule, either acquire the COVID vaccine or simply stay home. The students will have to comply with this rule or they may not return to the classrooms during this upcoming January. 

Due to the mandate being a regulation rather than legislation, there is an allowance of personal exemptions. Students with an exemption can go to school in person. However, students without exemptions and who choose not to receive the vaccine would inquire them to study from home.

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen coronavirus vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Many people have been safely vaccinated and have been effective at preventing serious COVID-related illnesses or death.

These are where the battle lines are drawn. There are still a numerous amount of people in California who will refrain from receiving the vaccine. An estimated 5.1% of adults in California refuse to take the vaccine due to reasons of distrust in the COVID vaccine, they are against vaccinations in general, and a distrust in the government. Thousands of Californians have joined together to protest against California’s measures outside of numerous government buildings.

Eden Levi, a sophomore at the Orange County School of the Arts said people should get the vaccine. 

“It has been through all the testing and has been approved,” Levi said. “I think that mandating the vaccine in schools would decrease adolescent COVID cases and I believe that it is necessary so that students and employees can return to school safely.” 

Despite the resistance of some, California is still doing better than most other states when it comes to vaccinating their population, however the pandemic still continues. There are still many actions being taken to stop the spread of COVID as additional vaccine boosters are being authorized for certain groups, making their protection against the virus stronger.

The goal is simple. California needs safe schools and the way to achieve that goal is the COVID vaccine mandate for all public school students and employees. It is time to get our children back into school smoothly and safely.