LAUSD is the first major school district in the nation to require vaccines for students. But the move from California’s largest school district won’t have an immediate ripple effect. While some California districts have already started considering a vaccine mandate for students, the conversation hasn’t started at others.
“We have so many kids in our district,” Cunningham said. “I think it’s our job to make it safe to come to school.”
No statewide momentum yet
Los Angeles Unified’s mandate requires that all students 12 and older receive their first dose by Nov. 3 and their second dose by Dec. 19, with earlier deadlines for students participating in in-person extracurricular activities. Younger students must be fully vaccinated within eight weeks of their 12th birthdays.
LAUSD isn’t the first district to require vaccines for students.
The neighboring Culver City Unified School District issued a vaccine mandate in mid-August. Less than a week later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and older.
But as schools reopened statewide, no other districts in the state required vaccines for students.
“Some districts may hesitate because they feel it’s intrusive,” said Troy Flint, spokesperson for the California School Boards Association. “Some may feel that it’s too politically charged. Others may feel they’ve been able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through other measures.”
While health experts hope California’s largest district can be a guiding light for others across the state, Flint said there’s been no immediate rush to issue similar mandates.
“I’m sure there will be some other districts that take this step,” he said. “But I don’t get the feeling that this will become a huge trend in the short term.”
Alex Stack, a spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom, said there is currently no conversation about a statewide vaccine mandate for students.
Even at neighboring districts like Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County and Duarte Unified School District 20 miles east of Los Angeles, school leaders have not started considering a vaccine requirement for students.
Public health experts like Dr. Monica Gandhi from UCSF and Andrew Noymer from UC Irvine support a vaccine mandate for all eligible students but said all students and staff should continue wearing masks indoors.
While children are less likely to have severe cases of COVID-19, those same experts say vaccinating children will help protect their families and the other adults in their lives. Vaccinations would reduce the number of quarantines for students and tilt the school year towards normalcy.
“We already ask children to get vaccinated for preventable illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella,” said Gandhi, a professor of medicine. “These kinds of mandates that keep society immune have been around a long time.”
The FDA has not fully approved the vaccine for children between the age of 12 and 15, but Gandhi said millions of students in those age groups have already been safely vaccinated under emergency use authorization.