California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia faces flash flood watches amid 'Bomb Cyclone' and 'Atmospheric River' Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Ivory poaching changes evolution of elephants California regulator proposes ban on oil drilling near schools, hospitals, homes MORE (D) on Friday announced that the state will mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all students in school, once it is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Newsom said the mandate would begin with older children, age 12 and over, in grades 7-12. But it will not take effect right away, given that he is waiting until the FDA gives full approval to the vaccine in that age group, rather than the current emergency use authorization. The mandate could either begin in the January school term or in fall of 2022, depending on when the FDA acts.
"I believe we will be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement, but I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination we will be the last state," Newsom told reporters at a press conference.
He said there would be medical and religious exemptions to the mandate.
The move to mandate vaccines for students in schools comes as the Biden administration makes a push for vaccine mandates more generally, including a rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is vaccinated or tested regularly.
Newsom's move brings the COVID-19 vaccine mandate debate to schoolchildren.
Perhaps anticipating pushback, Newsom noted that 10 vaccines for other diseases are already required for California school kids, and the COVID-19 vaccine would be the eleventh.
He said he had "no hesitancy" in making the move.
While the mandate will not take effect right away, Newsom said he expects more people to start complying "well before" it actually takes effect, a pattern that has been seen with other mandates, like for health workers, he said.
The mandate for children under 12 will be phased in later on once the FDA approves the vaccine in that age group, Newsom said.
California has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, with 72 percent of the population vaccinated, according to a New York Times tracker. But Newsom said vaccination rates for 12- to 17-year-olds are "not where we need to be."
"We hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated," he said.