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California will require all students be vaccinated once approved by FDA

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

California's governor has announced a first-in-the-nation requirement. In order to attend school, students will have to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it's granted full FDA approval. From CapRadio in Sacramento, Nicole Nixon reports.

NICOLE NIXON, BYLINE: Right now, the Pfizer vaccine has emergency authorization for kids aged 12 to 16, but the company is seeking full authorization. Eighty-four percent of eligible Californians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but Governor Gavin Newsom says there's room for improvement among the youngest who are eligible.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAVIN NEWSOM: We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it. And the purpose of this is to continue to lead in that space.

NIXON: The mandate will have exemptions for medical, personal and religious reasons. Many parents celebrated the announcement. Shana Bull's son is immunocompromised, and she says the vaccine mandate will make attending school safer for him.

SHANA BULL: The more people that can get vaccinated, the better because it isn't just about individuality. It is about helping others that might not be able to be vaccinated.

NIXON: Not all parents are happy, though. Sharon McKeeman has four kids spanning elementary through high school. She's especially concerned about reports of a rare side effect in which heart muscles become inflamed after vaccination. It's more common in adolescent boys.

SHARON MCKEEMAN: I wouldn't want to get my kids any vaccine until I'd really heard there were long-term studies not hearing about side effects or recalls.

NIXON: McKeeman runs a parent group that opposes mask mandates in schools. She already threatened legal action against the San Diego Unified School District. Now, she says, she's looking into legal action against the state, too.

E. Toby Boyd is president of the California Teachers Association, the state's largest union for educators. He favors anything that will help students stay in the classroom.

E TOBY BOYD: Any disruption like that is not easy for a student, a child. And we just need to try to minimize those. And again, we have the safety precautionary measures in place. The vaccines are one of them. We can probably stem that.

NIXON: Once the shot does get full approval, students in California's public and private schools will have to get the vaccine to attend school in person for the following academic term. That means older students could have a vaccine requirement as soon as January.

For NPR News, I'm Nicole Nixon in Sacramento.

(SOUNDBITE OF BONSAYE SONG, "CARTAGENA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.