Local parents split on governor's mandate requiring all students receive COVID-19 vaccine

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California will become the first state in the nation to require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Governor Newsom said Friday it's a necessary step to keep kids in classrooms and end the pandemic.

Just hours after the announcement, local parents are divided.

RELATED: California to require eligible students in public, private schools be vaccinated against COVID-19

"I think it's a good thing. All students should be vaccinated. I think it'll reduce the spread," said Tammataya Mason, a parent of a freshman student.

Mason said she's anxious for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine for younger children so that they can also be protected.

However, Joanna Crane, a parent of a high school junior said her family is seriously considering moving out of state. They've only stayed to allow their daughter to finish high school, but with the new mandate, that could change.

"Putting shots in our bodies that we don't know the long term effects? I'm totally against it," Crane said.

The governor said this requirement will add to the list of vaccine requirements for students that is already in place.

"We want to get this thing done," Newsom said. "We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it."

The new requirement will go into effect in the term after the vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

That could be as early as January 1, 2022, or as late as July 1, 2022.

Medical and religious belief exemptions will be allowed, but the rules for how the state would apply them have not been written yet.

Dr. Karen Dahl with Valley Children's Hospital said hospitalization rates for unvaccinated adolescents is 10 times higher than those who are vaccinated.

"Children are moving from classroom to classroom and, so if you have one infected child, they can expose, potentially many other children, not just in one classroom, but throughout the school day in multiple classrooms." Dr. Dahl said.

Once students are required to get vaccinated, all staff will also be required, eliminating the option of weekly testing.

Kristin Heimerdinger, a Buchanan High School teacher and spokesperson for the Association of Clovis Educators says it will be up to each educator to make the best decision for themselves.

"It's not surprising that the governor would ask the adults who were going to be in the present in the classroom with the students and the adults who will be around the student, you know, just all of our school staff," she said.

Locally, districts are experiencing different amounts of staff members confirming they've been vaccinated.

Kelly Avants with Clovis Unified School District said they are in the midst of collecting information about how many of their staff members are vaccinated and Monday is their deadline.

"In Clovis Unified, our focus is on maintaining access to our schools for classroom learning, and supporting the employees responsible for delivering high quality education to our students," Avants said in a statement to Action News. "The Governor's announcement this morning about new vaccination requirements students and educational employees will have far-reaching implications for our schools."

"As we learned of the Governor's announcement, we began immediately to dive into its details as to the practical realities of implementation for our students, families and employees. As we learn more about any potential exemptions from this requirement, reporting and record-keeping expectations and other details of the governor's plan, we will keep our parent and staff community informed about how today's announcement will impact their world of work and learning. The district administration does not intend to seek from the Governing Board earlier implementation of the Governor's new requirement, especially since doing so would likely precede full FDA clearance."

A spokesperson with Central Unified School District said it is reviewing the governor's announcement. Officials said 66% of the district's contracted staff have been fully vaccinated and they expect that number to rise.

Fresno Unified School District officials said they are determining next steps following the governor's announcement, but, so far, 5,560 or 41% of staff members have submitted proof that they are fully vaccinated.

This is just the first phase of Governor Newsom's mandate.

The second phase will include kindergarten to sixth grade students once the vaccine has full FDA approval for that group.
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