Los Angeles Board of Education approves vaccine mandate for students

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to require all of its students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — making it one of the first school districts in the country to do so. 

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the nation, will require all students aged 12 and up who are attending school in person to receive their first dose by Nov. 21 and their second dose by Dec. 19th. Students participating in extracurricular activities must receive their first dose by Oct. 3 and their second dose by Oct. 31.

 

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Students under 12 are required to receive their first vaccine dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday and their second dose no later than eight weeks after that.

Students with “qualified and approved exemptions and conditional admissions” are exempt from the mandate.

Board members offered their perspectives on the measure during Thursday’s special board meeting, citing previous vaccine mandates for polio and smallpox as reasoning for supporting it. Dr. Smita Malhotra, medical director for LAUSD, described it as the next step in California’s proactive efforts to protect its residents against COVID-19.

“What we have been doing have been the highest safety measures in the nation … Here we are at the next step of keeping our schools as safe as possible.”

Nick Melvoin, the representative of Board District 4, said the measure will allow school leaders to focus on education rather than spending time and energy on COVID-19 testing and safety protocols.

“We owe it to kids to return to a sense of normality in school … I eventually look forward to a school day without masks. We cannot do that without vaccines.”

Monica Garcia, the representative for Board District 2, said:

“The bottom line for me… is that the vaccine will help us avoid a winter like last year. The vaccine, for me and my family, has provided protection, and [allowed us] to be able to just go on with our lives.

LA unified is leading because we must. Our communities cannot wait.”

Thursday’s vote comes on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent mandate requiring all school staff to be fully vaccinated or tested regularly by Oct. 15.

Maryjane Puffer, executive director of the Los Angeles Children’s Trust for Health, told State of Reform her organization strongly supports the mandate.

“We fully support mandated vaccines for students 12 and older. We support vaccines for all students who are eligible to receive them in order to protect the most vulnerable. This includes students who are more likely to be affected by COVID-19, specifically children who have autoimmune diseases or underlying conditions, who live in crowded housing, who live with or care for family members who are vulnerable, or children without housing. Getting vaccinated is crucial for child and family health protection.”

She added that the Los Angeles Children’s Trust is working to advance vaccination campaigns like this in the state.

“LAUSD has made herculean efforts to promote and provide vaccines in partnership with our community providers. The L.A. Trust is managing a COVID-19 Youth Task Force in partnership with UCLA to train young people on the science behind COVID-19 and the importance of the vaccine.”

Puffer will join a panel of state school health experts on the “The pandemic, the education system and our kids’ health” panel at the upcoming 2021 Los Angeles State of Reform Health Policy Conference on Sept. 23. If you haven’t already done so, you can register for the event here.