REGION — Several North County school districts say they are trying to figure out how to navigate a new vaccine mandate that was recently announced by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Newsom made the major announcement last Friday that California will become the first in the nation to require the COVID-19 vaccine for staff and students.
“Vaccines work,” Newsom said. “It’s why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The state mandate will go into effect only once the federal Food and Drug Administration fully approves vaccines for those 12 and older. Upon FDA approval, students will have until the start of the following academic term, either Jan. 1 or July 1, to be fully vaccinated.
“Are there exemptions? Yes, well-established exemptions: for medical reasons, personal and/or religious beliefs,” Newsom said during his announcement.
Two days before Newsom’s announcement, San Marcos Unified School District released a statement reiterating that the board did not have any plans to mandate vaccines. On the day of the announcement, the district sent an email to families.
“Earlier this week, our Board reiterated their stance on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and their united front on not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school in person,” the email said in part.
“As with all of the COVID-19 health guidance we have received throughout the pandemic, we need time to assess and determine how to proceed with these coming requirements,” the email said.
Communications representatives for Escondido Union and Escondido Union High school districts had similar responses and said their respective districts were assessing the situation and determining how to move forward.
“We have heard the announcement from the governor’s office about the vaccine mandate, and our district and board are still assessing the situation, said Paula Zamudio, EUHSD community relations officer. “We will provide an update as soon as we can.”
Many parents took to social media to express their frustration or support for the new mandate, with many parents seemingly against creating a mandate, regardless of their own vaccination stance.
“Remember the Tdap vaccinations? That was also a mandate… This isn’t an infringement on choice,” wrote one SMUSD parent. “It’s just an addition to health and safety protocols for your kids and staff.
Another San Marcos parent wrote: “I’m not opposed to the vaccine. I’m not opposed to those who decide to get the vaccine. I’m opposed to having my rights taken away. I’m opposed to my right as a parent to decide what is best for my children being taken away.”
In the meantime, a San Diego-based parent group founded by Carlsbad parent Sharon McKeeman called Let Them Breathe recently launched an initiative called Let Them Choose to “protect students’ right to choice in the matter of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“Families need to be able to make these personal medical decisions themselves, and there is no reason to mandate a vaccine for children who are at low risk from serious complications from the virus,” said McKeeman in a statement.
“Our legal team will be sending legal correspondence to the State, and we are planning our next steps in legal action. It is extremely unfortunate that we have to continue to take the State to court to protect our children. Students deserve COVID19 vaccine choice, and they have a protected right to an in-person education,” the statement continued.
It is still unclear what the process will look like for students or staff who seek a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine mandate.