Bay Area health workers should follow the lead of Contra Costa County Public Health Officer Dr Chris Farnitano and recommend to school districts mandatory vaccinations for all eligible students.
It’s the safest way to keep Bay Area classrooms open for the rest of the school year.
Farnitano on Friday recommended that the West Contra Costa Unified School District proceed with a proposal to make vaccination compulsory for all students aged 12 and older. The Oakland Unified School District is considering a similar plan. The West Contra Costa Unified and Oakland Unified school boards are expected to approve the terms of reference.
The best solution of all, of course, would be for Governor Gavin Newsom to announce a statewide vaccination mandate for California students.
Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest school district in the United States, adopted a district-wide mandate on September 9. A statewide mandate would prevent a mishmash of resolutions from neighboring districts. It would also save school districts from having to grapple with inevitable legal challenges at the local level.
California students are already required to get vaccinated against other infectious diseases, including mumps, measles and rubella. Parents and students can apply for medical exemptions, but the courts have backed the authority of state and school districts to determine how best to keep students safe.
The FDA granted full approval for Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in August for people 16 years of age and older. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 can be vaccinated under emergency clearance from the FDA. A similar authorization for 5-11 year olds is expected to be widely approved by the end of October, when the Oakland and West Contra Costa terms come into effect.
Vaccination warrants bring California closer to the collective immunity needed to dramatically reduce the COVID-19 threat. They also protect our most vulnerable residents, including people with disabilities, those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and children too young to be vaccinated.
Los Angeles’ unified mandate won unanimous support from board members. The district plan requires students 12 and older to provide proof of COVID vaccination by January 10, the day the spring semester begins. Students who are not vaccinated will not be allowed on school campuses and will need to research education options outside of the school system. Students who participate in school-related extracurricular activities, including sports, marching band, plays and choir, will need to be fully immunized by October 31.
West Contra Costa’s unified proposal was drafted by administrator Demetrio Gonzalez Hoy. This came after cases of COVID forced school officials to temporarily close 18 classrooms during the first few weeks of school.
Contra Costa also became the first bay area county to issue a health ordinance requiring people to prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID before entering restaurants, bars and places of entertainment, as well. as in gyms and fitness facilities such as yoga and dance studios. This ordinance takes effect on September 22. It is measures such as the health ordinance that have enabled 80% of Contra Costa to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
This type of leadership should serve as a model for other counties in the Bay Area and beyond.