The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted on Thursday to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend in-person classes.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the first school district in the United States to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students.
The mandate applies to students twelve years old and older.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine under emergency use for children aged twelve-fifteen in May.
“This action is not about violating anybody’s rights. This action is about doing our job to be able to offer public schools that children can come to school and be safe,” Mónica García, a Los Angeles County Unified School Board member, said.
“It is easy for someone to tell us what to do. LA Unified is leading because we must. Our communities cannot wait.”
Student-athletes and those participating in extracurricular activities will have to start the vaccination process by October 3, 2021, and be fully vaccinated at the end of October. All other students will need to be fully vaccinated no later than December 19, 2021.
According to the Associated Press, 8,000 students and more than 1,200 faculty members in Los Angeles County were positive for COVID-19 between August 15, 2021, and September 7, 2021.
The United Teachers Los Angeles are encouraging Los Angeles County to provide resources for the community to bring awareness to COVID-19 and increase vaccination rates.
“Increasing these numbers is a critical part of our strategy for keeping schools open,” Diana Guillen, Chair of the district’s English Learner Advisory Committee, said. “Widespread vaccination can dramatically reduce transmission in all settings, especially and particularly at schools.”
Scott Schmerelson, a board member, didn’t participate in the voting process because he owns stock in Pfizer-BioNTech. The sixty-nine-year-old is a former Los Angeles Unified School Principal.
Recently, a lawsuit was filed in California, challenging the state’s protections to ensure equal access to education.
With more than 600,000 students in the district, it is the second-largest in the United States.
The country’s biggest school district, in New York City, has mandated coronavirus vaccinations for staffers, but not for students.
“As the second-largest district in the country, with a richly diverse student population, we know the impact and experiences of COVID-10 are varied amongst our students and our families, and that there are different levels of comfort and discomfort with the vaccine and other COVID-related safety measures,” Megan Reilly, Interim Superintendent, said.
“Along with these truths, our charge remains clear: to provide students with the best education possible, which includes the many benefits of in-person learning.”
Students that refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have the option to enroll in the district’s Independent Study Program. There are currently 15,000 students enrolled in the remote learning program.
“The science is clear- vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Reilly said. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”