LA public schools mandate COVID-19 vaccine before students can return to class

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The head of Los Angeles Unified School District announced Monday that all students will have to have a COVID-19 vaccine, once it’s available, in order to return to classrooms.

In an announcement, Superintendent Austin Beutner did not recommend that L.A. public schools remain closed until students can be vaccinated. Rather, he said state health and education officials should establish standards for the reopening of all schools while justifying the directives clearly. Individual schools should then open when they have met the requirements.

Forcing students to get a COVID-19 vaccine is “no different than students who are vaccinated for measles or mumps,” Beutner claimed in a pre-recorded statement.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times reported, Beutner compared students and staff getting a COVID-19 vaccine to anyone “tested for tuberculosis before they come on campus.

“That’s the best way we know to keep all on campus safe,” he added.

Nevertheless, vaccines aren’t going to be available for students anytime soon. The two vaccines developed in record time at the behest of President Donald Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” and approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration have, thus far, been tested nearly exclusively in adults, the LA Times reported.

“The clinical trial of the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech included 153 16- and 17-year-olds, and some of the experts who reviewed the data for the FDA said there weren’t enough teens to determine whether the vaccine is safe for that age group, let alone for younger children,” the paper reported.

Also, children will most likely be among the last to receive the vaccines because they are at the lowest risk of developing serious cases of the virus.

In his announcement, Beutner said he would like to see all students vaccinated “by this time next year.”

For parents who don’t want their kids to receive a vaccine, they “will always have the option for a child to stay in online learning and therefore not have to go back to campus.”

Separately, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that vaccines for essential workers– including teachers– could be available by early February, as they are next-in-line to receive them.

But because the virus is continuing to spread, Ferrer urged public schools to remain closed to in-person instruction at least through the end of January.

“The diminishing capacity of our healthcare system to care for the most severely ill among us is at a critical juncture and we all must do what we can,” Ferrer noted. “This recommendation for schools is intended to support this strategy.”

A small number of schools, most of them private, have remained open to in-person instruction under waivers issued by government officials for kids in transitional kindergarten through second grade.

But three public school systems — Las Virgenes Unified, El Segundo Unified, and Palos Verdes Unified — have already said they will suspend the use of waivers and shut down in-person instruction as per Ferrer’s guidance.

The California Federation of Teachers on Monday also called for a four-week cessation of all in-person instruction, in accordance with Ferrer’s recommendation.

Jon Dougherty


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