PIEDMONT (KPIX) — State leaders are now discussing whether a COVID vaccine should be required for all students age 12 and older to attend in-person classes.
State Health Director, Dr. Mark Ghaly, made the comments during a teleconference Thursday afternoon and Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed the idea later that same day saying, “Our health director said this is on the table. It’s being debated and, over the next few days, we’ll come out with some recommendations.”
Three districts in the Bay Area have already said they’ll be implementing vaccine mandates for students 12 and older: Oakland Unified, Hayward and Piedmont.
“Everyone should get vaccinated. I mean, there’s not really a good reason not to,” said Leif Carlson as he watched his girlfriend’s tennis match at Piedmont High. Leif is a junior at Berkeley High School, in a district that has discussed a vaccine mandate but hasn’t made it official.
According to data presented during the OUSD board meeting, Alameda County Health Department numbers show only 54% of young people age 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated in Oakland.
“We’ve consistently seen that disparities exist in the delivery of the vaccines,” said infectious disease expert, Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor at UC Berkeley.
Dr. Swartzberg says that, while implementing these mandates is the right thing to do from a public health perspective, it’s important to understand why some underserved communities might be hesitant to get vaccinated.
“A lot of that has to do with historical issues about trust in institutions, particularly medicine and public health,” Dr. Swartzberg said.
He also said it’s important to remember vaccination requirements to attend school are not new. Right now, California already requires school children to be vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.
Parents and students who talked with KPIX on Thursday said they’re in favor of adding the COVID shot to the list of required vaccines.
“We have a pandemic going on right now and we need to help stop that. This is the way we’ve done it with other pandemics and infectious diseases in the past,” said Mike Jumper, the parent of a Piedmont High School junior.
“I think that’s a good thing. Vaccines help keep everyone safe,” said Talia Blumberg, a Piedmont High School junior.
“Having vaccines just helps protect everyone and not go back to online school because that would be pretty sad,” said Ava Hersch, a senior at Piedmont High School.
There is still no definite timeline for when these vaccine mandates will be implemented in Oakland, Piedmont and Hayward. The school boards decided to move forward with the requirement at their respective meetings Wednesday night and the next step is to create the implementation plans.
OUSD is hosting a number of free vaccination clinics on school campuses. A full list is available.