The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday was unanimous approved a deferral of the student vaccine mandate against COVID-19, which was due to take effect next fall, as recommended by Supt. Alberta Carvalho.
The vote at 8:30 p.m., after a nearly 12-hour council meeting, was held without comment from either Carvalho or council members. It was a stark anti-culmination after council members last year resolutely accepted the vaccine’s demand – and were determined to defend it from lawsuits.
But in an earlier interview with The Times, Carvalho said the change of direction was supported by science and also justified by pragmatic and academic reasons.
“It was the right move at the right time, well approved by science,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho based his request for a postponement – at least until July 1, 2023 – on the current level of vaccination of the school system among older students and on what he described as low levels of transmission in schools. Carvalho said he also consulted with experts who worked with the country’s second-largest school system.
The decision coincides with a statement by Governor Gavin Newsom last month that he did suspension of the state mandate that at some point was expected to take effect until the next school year.
About 78% of the students of the United School District of Los Angeles aged 12 and older received both doses of the vaccine – this is what was needed for the fall. Based on enrollment, this will lead to the fact that about 40,000 students do not meet the requirements and cannot attend classes in person.
About 84% of students 12 years of age and older received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The school system is setting up online academies for the fall, but officials have been reluctant to force as many students into the option – or encourage families to leave LA Unified.
The delay will have a positive effect for “students whose parents did not send them to full-time school because they did not have vaccination status,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho added that he expected enrollment in online academy could potentially include families who are uncomfortable due to deferred mandates, as well as any others who remain concerned about the health risks associated with COVID-19.
All employees working in schools have been fully vaccinated, and some former employees have lost their jobs because they refused vaccinations and did not receive either an exemption or an alternative appointment.
The decision to vaccinate district employees remains in force. Carvalho announced it would seek a postponement of last month’s student mandate.
There are cases of coronavirus was recently on the risebut it appears that health officials are not taking any steps to strengthen restrictive preventive measures, such as restoring mandatory camouflage in classrooms.
LA Unified was the first of the country’s major school systems to introduce COVID-19 vaccination requirements for students. However, the district chose back in December postpone execution rule by this fall. At the time, she was concerned about the predominant independent curriculum with inappropriate students. However, officials expected that by the fall things would be much different, especially with the likelihood that a state mandate would also come into play.
But Governor Gavin Newsom and others have been counting on the approval of vaccines at the federal level that are being taken slowly.
State health officials said they would gradually introduce a vaccination requirement after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to fully approve the vaccine for young children. It is unclear when this will happen.
Once the FDA acts for those aged 12 to 15, the state will begin the process of drafting rules – including the opportunity for public comment – to require vaccinations as a condition of attending classes 7 through 12 at a public or private school.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently available to children aged 5 to 15 on the basis of an emergency use permit. Although most experts believe the vaccine is safe, it has not received full official approval. A similar process will take place between the ages of 5 and 11 – the federal government will act first and the state will act later.
About one-third of children between the ages of 5 and 11 graduated from them a series of vaccinations in Los Angeles County, according to the latest health data.
Times contributor Melissa Gomez contributed to this report.