The announcement by public health officials eliminates one of the state's last proposed pandemic restrictions.
On Friday, February 3, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that children attending public and private schools would not be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the AP, the announcement precedes the planned end of California’s COVID-19 state of emergency on February 28. After that date, Governor Gavin Newsom will not be able to impose new pandemic restrictions.
However, the CDPH still strongly recommends students and staff get vaccinated.
On October 1, 2021, Governor Newsom announced plans to incorporate the COVID-19 vaccine into the list of required vaccinations to attend school. In January 2022, California State Senator Richard Pan introduced Senate Bill 871 to add the vaccine to the list and only allow certain medical exemptions.
These initiatives created pushback from parents and groups opposed to the bill, resulting in protests at rallies and school board meetings.
Jonathan Zachreson, a father of three who founded Reopen California Schools, a group opposed to COVID-19 policies, said in an AP news report:
"This is long overdue… A lot of families have been stressed from this decision and worried about it for quite some time. I wish CDPH would make a bigger statement publicly or Newsom would make a public statement ... to let families know and school districts know that this is no longer going to be an issue for them."
Although COVID-19 is still considered a threat, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker indicates that new cases are trending downward. In addition, the Biden administration recently announced that the COVID-19 national and public health emergencies will end on May 11.
- Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. California Becomes First State in Nation to Announce COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Schools.
- Los Angeles Times. All California schoolchildren must be vaccinated against COVID-19 under new bill.
- Voice of OC. Debates Over the COVID-19 Student Vaccine Mandate Flare Up at OC School Districts.
- Associated Press. California won’t require COVID vaccine to attend schools.
- CDC. COVID Data Tracker.
- Politico. Biden to end Covid health emergency declarations in May.