What They’re Saying: Education and Legislative Leaders Support Announcement of COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Schools

SACRAMENTO – Education and public health leaders in California and throughout the country applauded Governor Newsom’s announcement that the state plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person when the vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for middle and high school grades, making California the first state in the nation to implement such a measure. The measure follows California’s other first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination measures, measures that have helped California to maintain the lowest case rate in the entire country. California is currently the only state to advance to the CDC’s ‘moderate’ COVID transmission category.

Here’s what education and public health leaders had to say about Governor Newsom’s first-in-the-nation announcement:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President: “I agree with what Gov. Newsom did in California. People need to realize that having a vaccine requirement for schools is not a new, novel thing that is very peculiar or specific to COVID-19. We’ve been doing this for decades.”

California State Parent Teacher Association President Carol Green: “California State PTA supports the use of vaccines to protect the health and safety of children and families across California. The state of California has required student vaccinations in public schools for years and PTA has long-held positions on vaccine requirements to protect our most vulnerable children.

“Vaccination is an important tool to ensure our schools remain open for in-person instruction while protecting the health and safety of our students, staff, and entire communities.

“Throughout the pandemic, California State PTA has been working with state leaders including the California Surgeon General, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the California Education Coalition, and various equity groups to advocate for children and families – and we will continue to do so. We look forward to working with parents and families, the governor, and policymakers to ensure students and families are involved in the rollout of this new regulation.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten: “@CFTunion ready to work with Gov. Newsom on Covid vaccines for children and staff including the mandating of vaccines (with appropriate exemptions) the semester following full authorization. Good step by @GavinNewsom”

California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd: “Teaching and learning are most effective in person, and the COVID-19 vaccine is a proven measure to prevent life threatening illness, keeping schools safe and open for in-person instruction, and will get us closer to being able to put this devastating pandemic behind us. Since the beginning, CTA has called for access to vaccines, testing and multi-layered safety measures in order to be reunited with our students in our classrooms. As the science advances and COVID vaccines are approved for younger students, this is the next step toward ensuring the health and safety of our schools and communities consistent with other vaccine requirements in schools. While recognizing the need for medical and religious exemptions, we believe vaccinations are key for both student and educator safety, keeping our schools open for in-person instruction and for combating this pandemic. Ninety percent of CTA members are vaccinated, and an overwhelming majority supports a vaccine mandate for students and staff. Several California school districts have already worked with educators and families in announcing vaccine mandates and will not be impacted by this new order. Phasing in the implementation timeline will allow local districts to prepare with families and educators and offer schools a vaccination site. Working together we can and will beat the deadly coronavirus that has claimed nearly 70,000 Californians and 700,000 lives in the U.S.”

California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas: “CFT believes that vaccines are essential to ensuring that our students, school workers, and communities are safe. We know that in-person instruction is best for our students, and that vaccines are the most important safeguard to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 infection.

“In a recent poll conducted by CFT, we found that an incredible 89% of CFT members are already vaccinated against COVID-19. We also found that 79% of CFT members support a vaccine mandate for all school staff, with 75% also supporting a vaccine mandate for students.

“This supermajority of support underscores just how much CFT members understand the safety of vaccines and the protection they offer to our school communities.

“We look forward to working with Governor Newsom, state health and education officials, and our local school districts as they implement a vaccine requirement for our schools. We will work to ensure our members continue to have a voice at the state and local level to address the impacts of any new policies. We will also continue to advocate for other essential safety mitigation strategies, including mask requirements, ventilation upgrades, and regular testing in schools.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond: “I have no doubt that today’s announcement by the Governor will lead to safer schools and safer communities. I look forward to working with the Governor, his administration, school districts, and school communities across the state to implement this important change.

“In the coming weeks, I will be launching a public service campaign to expand vaccination rates across the state. California is already leading the way in combatting this virus, with one of the lowest COVID-19 test positivity rates in the country; the safety measures we take collectively now in our schools will be pivotal to how our communities emerge from the pandemic, and this is especially true for our most vulnerable communities. COVID-19 vaccines provide the best protection possible that will allow students to get back to enjoying what they love most, including school sports, clubs, and social events. We look forward to working with the California Department of Public Health to support this effort that will keep schools safely open. Thanks to public health measures, our communities have opened up, we have been able to hug loved ones, and can now gather again. Let’s not lose that progress. The Governor’s action comes at the right time.”

California School Boards Association President Dr. Susan Heredia: “The California Schools Boards Association welcomes the state’s decision to use its longstanding legal authority to add COVID-19 inoculations to the vaccine requirements. CSBA endorses approaches to COVID-19 mitigation that are supported by data and science and that maximize the safety of students and staff — principles that are reflected in the new mandate. The patchwork of different methods for COVID-19 mitigation at the local level was not the most effective approach for this particular crisis. California requires a more comprehensive strategy that frees local school boards from the need to act as de facto public health officials. Those decisions are better left to people at the state level who are designated to perform public health functions. In addition, a statewide standard for student vaccinations may help defuse some of the unlawful behavior directed at school board trustees by those who oppose local mandates.”

California School Employees Association President Matthew “Shane” Dishman: “As classified staff, we have dedicated our careers to caring for our students by keeping them safe, fed and learning. I can think of no better way to keep students and staff safe than by ensuring every eligible person on campus is vaccinated. Broad vaccination is the only way to get us out of this pandemic so we can ensure every student can learn in person and have the best educational opportunities possible.”

San Diego Unified School District President Richard Barerra: “We think that it is important to set a standard across the state…that all students public and private schools will be required to receive the vaccination at the point they’re eligible and it certainly builds on the action not only our district has taken, but several other districts in CA have already taken.”

California Medical Association President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D.: “CMA strongly supports Gov. Newsom’s common-sense action to protect our students, teachers and school staff. This is not a new idea. We already require vaccines against several known deadly diseases before students can enroll in schools. The Newsom Administration is simply extending existing public health protections to cover this new disease, which has caused so much pain and suffering across our state, our nation and the entire globe over the last 18 months.  We are proud that California continues to put public health first, and urge all who are eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible so we can keep each other safe.”

Kaiser Permanente Chair and Chief Executive Officer Greg A. Adams: “Kaiser Permanente supports California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strong and timely action to protect students, faculty, and staff who have returned to in-person learning by requiring eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend schools for in-person instruction, once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, beginning in 2022. This is an important step that will protect students and school employees across the state who have returned to full, in-person instruction.”

Here’s what education and public health leaders have said about vaccine requirements for schools:

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona: “I wholeheartedly support [a school vaccine mandate]. It’s the best tool that we have to safely reopen schools and keep them open. We don’t want to have the yo-yo effect that many districts had last year, and we can prevent that by getting vaccinated.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra: “I am very supportive, both personally and as secretary of health and human services of a school district, of a local jurisdiction, of a governor, that says, ‘It is time to keep kids in school safe, and we will, therefore, move to requiring masks and vaccination.’ The federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction to tell schools what to do.”

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: “The vaccine could make a big difference for the health of our kids and for the peace of mind of parents everywhere. The COVID-19 vaccines are FDA’s top priority, and they know the urgency with which our children need a vaccine.”

Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health: “Are we willing to use the tools we have to keep schools open? Pretty straightforward: vaccines for everyone eligible, ventilation and filtration, regular testing, indoor masking while community transmission is high, and avoiding crowding. Let’s do it.”