L.A. schools mandate student vaccines: What you need to know

In a move aimed at keeping children and staff safe amid the ongoing pandemic, the Los Angeles Unified School District has ordered that all children 12 and older be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January to enter campus grounds and attend class.

Here is what you need to know about the sweeping rule:

Under the district’s mandate, the first students affected would be those involved in activities such as sports. Those students who are 12 or older would have to receive a first vaccine dose no later than Oct. 3 and a second dose no later than Oct. 31. Students will be prohibited from participation without vaccination.

All students 12 and older would have to receive a first dose no later than Nov. 21 and a second dose no later than Dec. 19. The final day of classes before winter break is Dec. 17.

Students return to class on Jan. 11. By Jan. 10, proof of vaccination would have to be “uploaded and approved in LAUSD’s Daily Pass program except for those students with qualified and approved exemptions and conditional admissions,” the order says.

The Daily Pass allows a student onto campus and so far has tracked weekly coronavirus test results. Parents and students also use the pass to self-report whether a student has symptoms.

The resolution also stipulates that younger students would have to receive their first vaccine dose no later than 30 days after their 12th birthday and their second dose no later than eight weeks after that birthday.

Students who are not vaccinated by the deadline will not be allowed on campus. The alternative for them would be to enter remote learning through independent study, a program that was overwhelmed at the start of the school year when more than 10,000 students signed up.

Vaccination exemptions could be obtained for documented medical reasons. There will be no exemptions for religious or personal beliefs.

Officials said about 225,000 student in grades six through 12 would fall under the policy — and estimate that roughly 80,000 students are not yet vaccinated.

One vaccine, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, has received full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for people 16 and older. Those who are 12 to 15 can be inoculated under a federal emergency use authorization. L.A. Unified is not waiting for full vaccination approval for those 12 to 15 — although that approval by the FDA is widely expected in the coming weeks. And President Biden on Thursday pledged to expedite approval of the vaccine for younger children.

The school district it operating mobile vaccination clinics that will visit every middle and high school. The vaccines are free and a parent permission slip is needed. Children can also be vaccinated elsewhere with parental permission.

In citing the importance of acting now, the resolution states that the school system plays a fundamental role in efforts “to safeguard the educational, health and safety needs of Los Angeles Unified’s students and community as a whole within its geographic boundaries.”

The order notes recent increases in coronavirus rates and hospitalization among children: “Children are at a greater risk from contracting the Delta variant due to high transmission rates with possibility of long-term symptoms from COVID-19.”

L.A. schools interim Supt. Megan K. Reilly said the student mandate was the next logical step to keep children, staff and community members safer from a COVID-19 pandemic that still poses significant risks.

“We’ve always approached safety with a multilayered approach: masks, air filtration and coronavirus screening,” Reilly told The Times. “But we are seeing without a doubt that the vaccines are one of the clearest pathways to protecting individuals from getting severe sickness as well as for mitigating transmission of the COVID virus. It is one of the best preventive measures that we have at our disposal to create a safe environment at schools.”

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