CORONAVIRUS VACCINE

What are the details of the Los Angeles school district's vaccine mandate?

The LA Board of Education has become the first major schools district to impose a vaccine mandate, requiring all children over 12 to get vaccinated.

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What are the details of the Los Angeles school district's vaccine mandate?
MIKE BLAKE REUTERS

From January 2022 all children aged 12 or older in Los Angeles public schools will have to be fully vaccinated against covid-19 to enter the premises, after a new order was approved by the Board of Education on Thursday.

Throughout the pandemic the LA Unified School District has been an early adopter of anti-virus safety measures and it becomes the first of the major school systems to implement a vaccine mandate for students.

The decision has sparked immediate push-back from some who argue that the decision could leave tens of thousands of children unable to attend lessons for something that is largely out of their control. However 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."

Can LA Board of Education force children to get vaccinated?

This decision in the nation’s second-largest school system does not come into force until January, but for now no vaccine has been granted full approval for use in those aged 12 to 15. Individuals aged 12 and over can get the vaccine but only under a federal emergency use authorisation.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue full vaccine approval for those aged 12 to 15 in the coming weeks but the pre-emptive decision in LA shows their desire to get children vaccinated as soon as possible.

L.A. schools Interim Supt. Megan K. Reilly estimated that the new vaccine mandate will affect around 225,000 students in grades six through 12 when it goes into effect in January. Of that number, around 80,000 are not currently vaccinated.

The punishment for those not fully vaccinated by the start of 2022 will be severe with unvaccinated children not allowed on the school campus. They will be forced to enter remote learning instead, with the type of independent study requirements that many children received during stages of the pandemic when in-person teaching was outlawed.

Biden cracks down with federal vaccine mandate

The decision from the LA Board of Education came just hours after President Biden has implemented the toughest vaccine restrictions for federal workers. In the past, employees of the federal government could choose not to get vaccinated and to submit to regular testing and follow additional covid-19 protocols instead.

The new rules remove that option and federal employees, or those who work for companies contracted to the federal government, will have 75 days to get fully vaccinated or face disciplinary proceedings.

Biden was unequivocal in his defence of the new rules, saying that the unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

He added: “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”

For months the government and local authorities had attempted to increase the stagnating vaccination rate by offering all manner of promotions and incentives, but the prevalence of the Delta variant has forced him to use stronger methods. His decision will likely be seen as a greenlight for many local authorities and private businesses who are eager to implement their own vaccination mandates, but have been concerned about a potential backlash and legal ramifications.