San Diego School Board Votes to Require COVID-19 Vaccination for Students

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A child rubs his arm after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles, Calif., May 13, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The San Diego Unified School Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to require eligible students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under the district’s “Vaccination Roadmap,” students ages 16 and older must receive their first dose of the vaccine before November 29 and their second dose on or before December 20 as a condition for attending in-person classes, according to Fox 5 San Diego.

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Board President Richard Barrera said that timeline “allows for full immunity by the time students return from winter break in January.”

“It could not be more clear that this is the right move for us to take tonight,” Barrera said.

The plan then expands to include students 12 and older and will eventually include ages 5 and older if the vaccine is approved by the FDA for that age group.

Students who are not vaccinated by the deadline will be forced to attend independent study programs beginning in January and will be excluded from extracurricular activities.

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Roughly 57 percent of eligible students in the district are fully vaccinated, while nearly 65 percent of students ages 12 and older have received at least their first dose, according to the district’s roadmap. Meanwhile, 76 percent of San Diego Unified employees are fully vaccinated, while nearly 81 percent have received one dose of a vaccine.

The board heard roughly an hour of public comments from people on both sides of the debate ahead of the vote, Fox 5 San Diego reported.

A 25-year-old elementary school teacher in the district spoke out at the meeting on behalf of the “unvaxxed staff afraid to speak out of fear of retaliation.”

“Your intentions may be good, but like the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” teacher Brenda Taylor said. “This flawed proposal that you’re hiding behind the word of science as if it’s absolute. We know that science is not perfect.”

The vote came one week after a lawyer representing Let Them Choose, an advocacy organization that spun off of the Let Them Breathe movement against students wearing masks in schools, sent a letter to the district last week arguing the district does not have the legal authority to mandate the vaccine.

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Let Them Breathe founder Sharon McKeeman told the outlet ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that the group is prepared to take legal action against a mandate if it’s passed. 

Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom said this week that he is discussing a statewide vaccine mandate with school districts, though no decisions have been made.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest in the U.S., approved a requirement that students 12 and over be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to attend in-person classes.

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