LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the nation's largest school districts, has passed a vaccine mandate that requires all eligible students aged 12 and up be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend in-person classes.
The Board of Education passed the mandate during a special meeting Thursday afternoon.
The mandate requires students age 12 and older who take part in in-person extracurricular programs to have a first vaccine dose by Oct. 3, and their second no later than Oct. 31.
All other students aged 12 and up would be required to receive their first dose by Nov. 21, and their second by Dec. 19. Other students would have to receive their first dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday, and their second dose no later than eight weeks after turning 12.
LAUSD has 600,000 students enrolled; out of that number 220,000 are eligible for the vaccine.
People under the age of 12 are ineligible for COVID vaccines, since none of the currently available vaccinations have been approved for use in that age group. The Pfizer vaccine is approved on an emergency use basis for people aged 12-15, and it has full authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for people 16 and over.
The mandate applies to all district students, along with charter school students on "co-located district school facilities."
The board heard public comments from parents.
Many parents were concerned about the vaccine mandate, saying they don’t understand the urgency of getting their young kids vaccinated.
"I don’t want my children to be experimented on," said one concerned parent.
Other parents expressed their concerns by stating that there is no guarantee that the vaccine will protect kids against the virus.
However, doctors and board members reiterated the importance of the vaccine and its support from medical experts.
Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said students endured a lot during the pandemic and many are happy to return to the classroom and receive the best quality of in-person learning.
"The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community," Reilly stated.
"The vaccine is the single best way to protect students and schools from COVID-19. Los Angeles Unified is committed to meeting our families where they are and providing them with reliable medical information about this safe, effective vaccine," added Board President Kelly Gonez.
According to the county Department of Public Health, 60.8% of residents age 12-15 in Los Angeles County had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Sept. 2.
The resolution cites rising COVID-19 cases during the summer due to the highly contagious Delta variant, along with rising numbers of children hospitalized with the virus. It states that COVID-19 "is a material threat to the health and safety of all students within the LAUSD community, and is a further threat to the successful return to continuous in-person instruction.''
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD teachers, recently announced its support for a vaccine mandate for students. The district already requires weekly COVID testing for students and employees, regardless of their vaccination status.
All district employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.
City News Service contributed to this report
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