The Los Angeles Unified School District on Thursday, Sept. 9, announced that it would impose a vaccine mandate on eligible students.

According to Reuters, the second-largest school district in the country said the requirement would go into effect by January next year. The order is expected to affect more than 600,000 pupils 12 years old and over.

Despite outcry from parents over uncertainties of the available COVID-19 vaccine shots’ potential side effects on children, the school board voted unanimously 6-0 in favor of the mandate.

“I do not see this as your choice or my choice. I see this as a community necessity,” said board member Jackie Goldberg. “That means people have to do things they’re not comfortable with, they’re not sure of, that may even contain some risk.”

The mandate offers exemptions on medical or religious grounds.

Last year, Los Angeles had kept schools closed over COVID-19 concerns for longer than most. Before this requirement for students, it had already mandated vaccination for the teaching and staff faculty. 

Data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health showed that 58% of eligible children in the district had received at least one dose of the shots. But several parents remained wary of the potential risks their child may be subjected to from the vaccine.

“Can we sue the district if our child has secondary side effects that are negative?” a parent asked.

None of the vaccines for children as young as 12 years old had received full approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but were authorized under emergency use. No COVID-19 vaccines, however, are approved for younger recipients.

For children, in particular, some public health experts and parents were especially wary about the rare adverse side effects such as myocarditis, or heart inflammation, besides blood clots. This side effect is known to affect primarily young male recipients.

“It shouldn’t be mandatory. It should be our decision,” said Angelica Ramos, parent of three public school students, to the New York Times. She was among those that supported masks but was afraid of the risks to her children.

Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, who initiated a vaccine requirement for public settings, said he would hold back the requirement for young recipients.

“We just don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” he said. 

Last month mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, a Democrat, also said the vaccine mandate for school students was “premature.”

“Obviously we don’t have a vaccine for children who are younger than 12, so it’s a little premature I think to be talking about that,” she said, noting that she believed the vaccines played a role in the pandemic.

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