Los Angeles County school officials voted unanimously on Thursday to order COVID-19 inoculations for all students aged 12 and over, the largest school district in the United States to take that step.
School board members approved the shots over the objection of several parents who said in Spanish they were concerned about the safety of vaccines and should have the right to make that decision for their children.
‘I do not see this as your choice or my choice,’ board member Jackie Goldberg said. ‘I see this as a community necessity. That means people have to do things they’re not comfortable with, they’re not sure of, that may even contain some risk.’
The board’s vote Thursday makes Los Angeles by far the largest of a handful of districts with a vaccine requirement. Nearby Culver City imposed a similar policy last month for its 7,000 students. LA has about 630,000 students.
‘I do not see this as your choice or my choice,’ board member Jackie Goldberg (above) said. ‘I see this as a community necessity. That means people have to do things they’re not comfortable with, they’re not sure of, that may even contain some risk’
Nancy, the mother of a teenager student joins anti-vaccine protestors outside the Los Angeles Unified School District administrative offices in Los Angeles, Thursday
Fifth-grader wait in line to take a weekly rapid COVID-19 test on the first day of school at Los Angeles Unified School District at Montara Avenue Elementary School
It comes as President Joe Biden announces sweeping new vaccine mandates affecting about 100 million Americans, who will now be forced by their employers to take the vaccine.
Speaking at the White House Thursday, Biden sharply criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.
‘We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,’ he said, all but biting off his words. The unvaccinated minority ‘can cause a lot of damage, and they are.’
Biden’s expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Under the plan for Los Angeles, students 12 and up who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities need to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. Others would have until December 19.
So far nearly 58 percent, or 239,515, of the district’s 12 to 18 year old students have been vaccinated, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health.
The Los Angeles Unified School District was among the last of the nation´s largest districts to reopen to classroom instruction last spring. The teachers union opposed the move for months, citing health concerns.
So far nearly 58 percent, or 239,515, of the district’s 12 to 18 year old students have been vaccinated, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health
Overall, 66 percent, or 5.8milion eligible LA County residents are fully vaccinated
Safety and health instructions are posted for visitors outside the closed doors of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board Room Thursday
Parent Evelyn Guillen, middle, with her three-year-old son join anti-vaccine protestors outside the Los Angeles Unified School District administrative offices in Los Angeles Thursday
LA’s student population is nearly three-quarters Latino and many are poor. Among adults, low-income Latinos are vaccinated at a lower rate than the state average.
With a COVID-19 surge fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, school districts have struggled to create policies around the politically charged topics of vaccines and masking.
Children represented about a quarter of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States in the week ending Sept. 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
More than 600,000 students attend 1,200 public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which already requires face masks, testing and ventilation upgrades. The board previously mandated that all employees without exemptions be vaccinated.
The mandate does not apply to a small minority of students in the nation’s second-largest school district who have opted to remain home.
At least one much smaller school district in the Los Angeles suburb of Culver City has already required vaccines for students.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in May that children aged 12-15 can receive the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech vaccine previously approved for those 16 and over, but authorization for children younger than 12 has not yet been granted.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which enrolls more than 600,000 mostly Latino students, already tests all students and employees every week, already requires masking indoors and outdoors and has ordered employees to be vaccinated.
“Although LAUSD has implemented the highest safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at schools, vaccination of all eligible and non-exempt students provides the strongest protection to the health and safety of all students and staff in the LAUSD school communities,” the superintendent’s office said in a report to the board, adding that a recent rise in pediatric hospitalizations also spurred the move.
The vote came as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have been decreasing but the rate of transmission remains high, according to the county Department of Public Health.