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Alameda County — Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a new mandate adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required for children to attend school.

“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella,” Newsom said in a press release issued after his announcement. “There’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19. Today’s measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom. Vaccines work. It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates.”

Newsom’s order directs the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to follow the procedures established by the Legislature to add the COVID-19 vaccine to other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance pursuant to the Health and Safety Code. COVID-19 vaccine requirements will be phased-in by grade span, which is expected to ease implementation of the requirement.

The requirement will first apply to students in grades 7-12 and will take effect after the Food and Drug Administration issues full vaccination approval for children whose ages correspond to those grades. Based on current information, the Newsom administration expects the first phase of this new requirement to become effective July 1, 2022. Implementation for grades K-6 will follow a similar path; an expected effective date is not yet known.

In the Tri-Valley, school districts are preparing to meet the governor’s mandate.

"We welcome the state's vaccine mandates and support any measure based on data and science that further protects the safety and health of our students, staff and community,” said David Haglund, Pleasanton Unified School District superintendent. “We are grateful that 97.3% of Pleasanton students ages 12-17 have received one dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine and 82.9% are fully vaccinated here in Pleasanton. We hope to see similar numbers as the vaccines receive full approval for administering to students ages 5 -11."

Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) Superintendent Chris Funk said he would like in-person learning for students and staff to mirror what they experienced before the pandemic.

“The data is clear, from an academic and social-emotional perspective, in-person learning provides the greatest opportunity to excel,” Funk continued. “Already, 91% of eligible residents of Dublin have their first shot and 78.8% have both doses. We expect this trend to continue when our K-5 students have access to the vaccine. A mandate from the state will get us as close as possible to being a fully vaccinated community, and that is the key to getting back to normal and allowing educators to focus entirely on education."

Funk went on to say that his district will follow the same procedures and policies that are already in place for immunizations that are required when a student enrolls into DUSD. While the Dublin district only permits medical exemptions, Funk said he anticipates some families might try to claim religious or personal beliefs as a reason for not vaccinating their children.

Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Chris Van Schaack noted that, given the order is effective July 2022, it’s difficult to predict what will happen in the next year.

"So, we'll continue to focus our energy on how best to keep our students in class this winter, when the combination of Covid and the cold/flu season will present their own challenges. So, essentially, the order has very little impact on current operations. We haven't received much feedback from our community,” Van Schaack said. “We believe our vaccination rate among eligible students is around 60%, based upon the information that we have. Since we have not received confirmation from many students we know have been vaccinated; that number could be a little low.”

In August, the CDPH issued a public health order that required all school workers to either provide proof of full vaccination or be tested weekly. Full compliance with that order is required by Oct. 15. The governor’s newest order now requires that all school employees be vaccinated. That aspect of the order will become effective concurrent with the first phase of the new order. Newsom acknowledged that a federal order requiring vaccinations for school workers could materialize before the state’s plan is implemented.

The Chabot-Las Positas Community College District Board of Trustees recently approved a policy requiring all students attending in-person classes to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with some exemptions.

“It is the belief of the board of trustees that, as a public agency, it is incumbent upon our district to ensure our students are learning and our faculty and staff are working in the safest possible environment,” said Jennifer Aries, interim director, public relations, marketing and government relations with the college district. “After much consultation with health officials and our education partners throughout the state, the board felt it best to go in this direction and mandate a COVID-19 vaccination for all faculty and staff, and all students attending in-person classes beginning in spring 2022. Within the mandate, the Board made provisions for medical and religious exemptions, and our students, faculty and staff were notified of this.”