California was on track to require COVID-19 vaccination for all students, including those who have filed religious exemptions. On April 14, the California Department of Public Health announced they would delay the mandates for schools until the 2023-2024 school year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had announced last fall that the state would require children to get the COVID vaccine to attend classes in person as soon as the vaccine receives final U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for their age groups. 

Newsom had planned to phase in the vaccine mandate, starting with seventh graders and continuing through sixth-graders to kindergarten.

But now, his administration announced that the mandate will not go into effect, at the earliest, until July 1, 2023, due to the lack of full FDA approval.

Separately, also on April 14, State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, a Democrat, suspended a bill that would have required all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school, eliminating the state’s existing belief-based exemption.

California has already done this for the other vaccines required for students, including chickenpox, tetanus, measles and polio.

Senator Pan had introduced Senate Bill 871 in January and now announced he will hold it in abeyance. He claimed that COVID-19 vaccination rates are “insufficient,” especially among children, and that “the state needs to focus its efforts on increasing access” to COVID vaccinations for children through physicians and other health care providers.

Only a little more than a third of young children have received these vaccines since, to date, the FDA has only approved their use in adolescents over the age of 16. Children between the ages of 5 and 15 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine through an emergency use authorization.

The bill drew strong resistance from some parents who oppose mandatory childhood vaccinations and Republicans, who took advantage of its delay to call on Newsom to end his student vaccination requirement, according to The Sacramento Bee.

One of the Republicans who weighed in was State Assemblyman Kevin Patrick Kiley, who called it a victory for California parents and students “who made their voices heard.”

According to a poll released on April 14 by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, a minimal number of voters (4%) indicated that COVID is a priority issue in the state, while 31% said access to housing was a priority and 23% said safety was a priority.

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